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Defenders of Humanity

Chapter Text

The doors gave out a soft hiss and then an exhaust of cool gas. It made Matt cough slightly, but his wide grin wouldn't falter. With ginger hair, matching light eyes and large round glasses, he looked seemingly too young for such an important expedition- as commented on by many times. But he knew he was up for the task. Next to him was his father, Samuel, who gave a pat on his shoulder. He had lighter grey hair, but the same eyes- which was above a pair of more rectangular glasses.
"Isn't this exciting? The Galra are finally letting out some of their secret technology to the public- just imagine what they've been working on for so many generations." Samuel smiled.
Onto the right of Matt was Takashi Shirogane. Though, his friend Samuel just called him Shiro for short.
Shiro was tall, broad and would have had a typical military cut if it weren't for the tuft of black hair sprouting from his forehead. He was slightly more wary of the Galra than Samuel and his son were.

"Are you... sure about this? They've practically shut themselves out for decades, why would they now just open up so suddenly?" He asked concernedly.

"Oh, don't be so suspicious- it's an honor they chose us three to be the 'diplomats' of the situation." He chuckled. "You remember what Iverson said? They made a real breakthrough in their technology, both in the weaponry section AND for space travel. I know they've been known as a... rival to the Garrisons and all other tech organizations for a while, but that could all change today!" Samuel reassured with Matt matching his enthusiasm. "This could be a start of something big."

"Yeah! This is a huge step in a partnership between the two. Garrison has accomplished a lot, but that sneak peek of those machines they gave us? Everyone was so impressed, even you Shiro." He said in an almost bantering way.
Shiro let out a small smirk.

"I know, it was very convincing and yet... this place. I guess I'm just not into ease with it." He nervously laughed. No sooner than when he finished, some mechanical noises whirred from behind the door. With a final sigh, the twin doors slid open, revealing an ordinary soldier.
Matt looked slightly disappointed which prompted his father to laugh. "Hello. I am Commander Samuel, and this is my son Matt. This is Shiro, and we're the group from the Garrisons." He waved to Shiro.
Shiro stepped in once he realized the soldier wasn't responding. "Ah, here are our IDs." The soldier took one glance at them, and said in a robotic voice.

"Follow me." The three obliged, walking into the narrow hallway. Everything here was themed black and purple, Shiro mused. Even the soldier's suit. He couldn't exactly see the face of the guard as he was wearing a helmet with a thin sheet of black. But the way his armor moved was very intriguing. It looked smooth, almost too smooth and "animated" for a human. Before Shiro could consider anything yet, they had entered the testing facility.

"Here we are. The Galran commander will be here shortly." And with a turn, the guard was gone. Samuel and Matt were talking about the schematics of the new room, as Shiro walked around. It was an interesting place, a large one at that. It almost resembled an arena. There were vast rows of seats across, whilst in the center was a large dome protected by penetrable glass. Inside there was where Shiro had presumed they would see the Galra technology in action.

Soon, the door reopened- grasping the attention of the team. A man of a surprisingly sick, and light purple skin color walked inside. He was bald and had tiny, visible bumps. Before anybody could inquire about it- he spoke up in a gruff voice. "I take that you are the group the Garrison sent us." His voice was thick and sly, instantly making Shiro chary. He moved his mouth in a foreign way.

Samuel nodded. "Yes. Will you be showing us the weaponry today or..." He stopped when he found that the commander wasn't listening. He was instead looking at Matt and Shiro, heavily. He was observing them, rapt almost.
Matt noticed this too and bristled. "Hey? You guys DID communicate with us last week concerning about these beforehand. Where shall we start?" Samuel held up a hand and opened his mouth to speak, but the large purple general spoke first.

"I'm afraid there's no need for that, old man." Samuel sputtered, more confused than anything. "Why I beg your-" Another Galran soldier behind him butted his neck with the end of a strange looking gun. Samuel crumpled to the ground.

"Dad!" Matt screamed, bending down toward the body. "W-what are you DOING? Do you know why we're here?" His voice strained and shaking. Shiro turned around and saw three more soldiers coming close. Turning to the commander he yelled,

"Call them OFF. We're peaceful and we don't have weapons!" Shiro went into a fighting stance, but it wavered when the same soldier kick Matt to the ground. He gave a grunt, but nothing else.

"No- Matt!" Shiro gave a shout as he kicked the soldier down, foot on his neck. "You better stop this right now." Shiro seethed. He looked down at the soldier and realized that there was sparks coming out from the neck. He stepped back.
"What the..." Robots? Were these soldiers drones? Shiro leaped back to dodge an attack from the other soldiers coming in, but before he could react the commander jabbed something into his side.

"AAUURRGH!" Shiro screamed and fell to the ground- trembling violently. He tased me! Shiro's unbelieving thoughts forming ever so slowly in his mind. He groaned as he saw more drones tie up Samuel and Matt- who were unconscious now. The commander's smirk was the last thing Shiro saw before passing out, and he could barely make out a sentence coming from his mouth. Which he now realized were full of sharp teeth. How did I miss that? How... why...
"Inform Zarkon." And then he slumped to the ground.

--- 1 Year Later

"Hey Pidge, you there?"

"Ssshhh!" Came the answer. "Ugh, come on." Lance grunted, struggling to move in the bulky armor he was forced to wear. The bag wearing down on his shoulder wasn't helping either.

His back crouched down low, he moved in lengthy steps with his long legs. Long yes, but skinny as well. The very weight of the equipment in his hands was enough to nearly topple him over.
"W-whoa!" His voice echoed in the lengthy hallway he was sneaking in. After a full two minute's worth of silence, he began to move again.
"Honestly, we are on a sneak mission- why give us heavy suits like this?!" Lance whined. "Aren't ninjas supposed to wear like, really tight clothing?" Lance leered. "I bet that would make the ladies line around the block."
Pidge's voice buzzed into Lance's left ear. "Lance- I swear if you were next to me I would smack you. Plus, we aren't ninjas." He huffed.
"Aw come on Pidge, you love me."
"No, I really don't."

And then a new voice came online, bursting with a pop of static.
"Owww, Hunk! Refresh your mic." Lance complained.
"Sorry, sorry." A deeper voice apologized. "Ok, so I just finished dismantling the security codes without triggering an alarm. Pidge, you ready?" Lance could already hear his best friend smiling.
"Copy that. In position. Lance?" Pidge asked.
"Oh please, you know what they called me in my first year of Garrison Stealth class?"
"I don't really want to know-" Pidge was cut off.
"They called me the Tailor for how I thread the needle." He interrupted, with extra cocky emphasis on the last words. "Let's do this!"

Pidge began to clack away at his computer keyboard. "Downloading Hacker.exr now. I added a few... modifications to it so the security cameras would black out longer. Hunk when I say the word, you've GOT to clip the brown wire, okay?"
"Alright!" At Hunk's location which was several rooms away from Lance, he began to unscrew the tight vent which led to the main control wires.
"Great you guys, and I'll be busy kicking butt." He smirked.
"Stealth Lance, stealth." Pidge uttered.
"Don't worry- I'm gaining on them now." Lance creeped up on a nearby corner, peeking over to see two soldiers chatting."I'll be as silent as a-"
"Uh guys? I think there might be a little problem." Hunk's voice came booming through Lance's ear, causing him to stumble.
"H-hey no!" Lance winced from his deafened ear, and lost his balance. With his clandestine weapon outweighing to the left and the bag starting to lean in the same direction, he tumbled.
Lance quailed at the sound of his hard plated bag bump into the ground noisily. Guards alert now, they came sprinting toward the noise.
"Hunk are you kidding me- fix your headset!" Lance hissed.
"Lance, look out!" Pidge screamed as one of the soldiers flexed their arm back, ready to knock Lance out. Thankfully, Lance heard his warning and ducked with a loud yelp.
"Okay- THAT'S IT." Lance dumped the heavy bag and began to sprint down the corridor. "Pidge, is the download almost complete? Hunk get ready for the signal!" He shrieked over the mic.

Hunk panicked. "Yeah-uh, that was the problem I was talking about! The space where the brown wire is, it's too far and too narrow for me to fit through. And I'm pretty sure my arm won't reach that far."
"Well you're gonna have to try Hunk, cause here it comes!" Pidge smashed a flashing red button, and as soon as he did he shut the laptop and shoved it into his own heavy carrier.
"Guys!" Hunk yelled. "It's too dark I don't know which the brown one is!"
"Then use your flashlight." Lance lashed as he dodged another attack. The sirens were on full blare now, and the once purple corridors were now red.
"Right- got it!" Hunk fumbled his light on and reached the clippers as far as he could squeeze into the panel. "Come on... come on- h-Hey! I did it!" He snipped the wire in half triumphantly.
Pidge gave a cry. "In the nick of time too! Now all we have to do is get back to the main control center and open the prison doors to end phase one. Come on!"

As Pidge and Hunk scurried their way to the main center, Lance was still running away from the bots. "Guys- a little HELP here?!" By now Lance had ditched the thick armor chest guard and back, attempting to throw them back at the guards chasing him. He managed to chuck his helmet too, displaying his short chestnut hair that sprinkled in sweat, with his narrow navy blue eyes.
"Pidge, which way?"
"What do you mean- you said you got the whole map down!" Pidge panted, almost to their destination.
"Just tell me!"
"Okay, according to my watch it's er... it's left!" Lance took a sharp turn, his shoes sliding.
"No- your other left!"
"I only have one LEFT." Lance gave a frustrated noise. "Oh great, it's a dead end."
"Your fault for not doing your homework-"
"GUYS." Hunk's voice came back on. "Stop it- Lance you can fight your way through- maybe you just-"
"Too late." Lance said in a muffled voice, his cheek pressed onto the ground. His head was held firmly by the robotic hand, and he gave up squirming quickly.
Pidge gave a moan. "Nice work, tailor."

The sirens were cut off, and the entire setup of the building lifted up around them, revealing the inside of the Garrison training hold. As the walls were raised, Lance glanced at Pidge and Hunk- both not too far away. The atmosphere of danger had faded away- now awashed with a new one. Scolding.

The robot let go of Lance who got up and dusted himself off. "Stupid bot messing up my hair..." He mumbled as he walked toward the scowling commander. Commander Iverson.
Once in a straight line, the commander came in front of them and gestured to the whole flock of students who were watching the whole thing. He had dark lined skin and an eye that never opened- adding onto the angry general look.
"Now. Let's see if your pathetic excuse for a stealth mission could teach something to the rest of you." He bit harshly, voice hoarse.
One hand raised up. "The headsets were not refreshed every ten minutes by the engineer."
"Correct, if not refreshed- security could have your light pinned down and ready to terminate." He scowled more, if that was even possible. Hunk looked down.
Another arm raised. "The executor got caught and threw off his armor and bag."
"Yes, and no matter how bulky or tiresome it may be- you'll have to get used to it because those equipment are necessary to free the prisoners- if you don't recall." Iverson spat. "Anything else?"
"The tech support and launcher tampered with the files." Pidge turned to the voice source and snarled.
"I made it BETTER!"
"No- she's right. It doesn't matter HOW good you think you are- you do not indulge within the files the Garrison give you. Who knows what malfunctions it could cause." Iverson frowned.
"I made the coding smoother- and the cameras would've lasted longer if-" Iverson made a cutting signal with his hands, shutting Pidge up. Pidge looked away, a scowl to match Iverson's.

"If you're this bad individually- you better at least be able to work as a team! Arguing with each other is not an effective way of team bonding."
Iverson gave a disgruntled sigh and continued, "The Garrisons exist to turn young cadets like you into the next generation of overall elite agents- and in this session- undercover soldiers. But these kinds of communication problems are exactly what took the lives of the diplomats in the Galra Association Mission."
"That's not true sir!"
"What did you say?" Iverson turned to Pidge. Before he could digress, Lance clasped a hand over Pidge's mouth.
"Sorry sir- h-he must have overworked himself over that command file- sir. But point taken." He gave a queasy smile.

"I hope I don't need to remind you- that the only reason you're here, is that the best executor in your class had a discipline issue and flunked out." Iverson took a step closer to Lance. "Don't follow in his footsteps." Lance sweated- trying to not break the eye contact between them.

Iverson turned to the next group. "Next!" He shouted as the wall rearranged and began to descend.

---

"Lights out in five. Everybody back to their dorms, now." Iverson gave one last command for the day as he walked down the dorm hallways. Lance peeked out from their door, examining the aisle. Hunk did too, just changed out from his earlier stimulation suit. He was taller and much larger than Lance's thin figure, shoulders padded with muscle and home cooking no doubt. He too had a more tanned skin like Lance- though darker, with short cropped black hair that perked out from the orange headband he wore- wavering in the air when he ran. His jacket was shorter but a similar military style like Lance's. His normal attire was a simple yellow shirt, brown pants and a thick green vest. He had tough fingerless gloves, mostly to prevent sweaty hands. His squarish face was pinched with worry.
"We shouldn't be doing this."
"You heard commander Iverson- we need to bond as a team." Lance smirked. "Besides, how can they expect us to not do some sneaking of our own when we're in the stealth class?"
Still looking concerned, Hunk didn't respond.
"Come on, we're gonna grab Pidge- loosen up, meet some nice girls and maybe-" The lights shut off and Hunk stammered.
"O-ok, but I'm just saying it here and right now for the record... this is a bad idea." Before he could say another word, Lance darted across the intersections- followed by Hunk.

"You know, for someone in the more exploited programs of the Garrison- you don't have much of a sense of adventure." Lance quipped.
"All of your 'adventures' end up with me in the principal's office." Lance continued crawling underneath a window panel with some instructors working inside. Hunk bent down reluctantly and crawled as well. "Aw man." He groused.

One sentry walked by, looking for any cadets. "L5 North all clear." he miked and walked away. Once out of sight, Lance leaped out of the recycle bin he was hiding in, giving a satisfied smirk. Hunk did not jump out as easily as Lance did out of his bin, but managed to squeeze out and crash onto the floor.
"Oof! I'm fine." Hunk recovered quickly, getting up and behind Lance.
However, a whirring sound that everybody knew as a dorm door activating open came on, prompting Lance to push himself and Hunk out of the way. Coming out of the door was none other than Pidge. Carrying a bag-pack, he sprinted out of the door and into another hall leading outside.

Lance cocked an eyebrow. "Where is he going?"

---

Pidge was sitting down with two screens lighting up his face on the roof of the Garrison building, and several other equipment propped next to his bag. Pidge was far shorter than his teammates, and had a voluminous ginger hairstyle that curved upwards in the ends, a style that made him seem younger than he already was. He wore green and white long sleeves that ended in a quick orange, and baggy navy blue shorts. He had khaki high sneakers and always carried his matching bag around. With large and round glasses resting on his more rotund face, he closed his brown-so-light-it-was-almost-yellow eyes, listening to any unusual garbles, headphones pressed firmly against his ears.
He didn't expect a pair of hands to lift the headphones up, and he definitely didn't expect a familiar voice to say,

"You come up here to rock out?"

"GuaAAH!" Pidge cried out, whipping his head to face Lance and Hunk, eyeing him curiously. "Oh, Lance!- Hunk, no, uh.. just... looking at the stars." He fidgeted.
"Hey where'd you get this stuff? Doesn't look like Garrison tech." Lance peered strangely at the appliances Pidge was working with. With a conceited smile that could've given Lance a run for his money, Pidge replied, "I built it."
"You built all of this?" Hunk got closer to the machines, hand reaching out to touch it. Another hand came down faster and slapped his away.
"Ah, stop it. With this thing, I can scan to the edges of the entire state and more. It maps it all out too." Pidge's grin only got wider, but it went away in a snap when Lance elicited. "That right? All the way to Galra Corp I presume? Bet you could find the files for the Association Mission?"

Pidge gave a staggering whine, looking away.
"You go ballistic every time one of the instructors mention it! What's your deal?" Lance crossed his arms as Hunk managed to touch one of the mini satellites.
"Second warning Hunk!" Pidge glared. Hunk grumbled and let go.

"Look Pidge, if we're gonna bond as a team we can't have any secrets." Lance pouted. There was a moment's pause.
"..Fine. The world as you know it is... about to change. The partnering mission didn't fail because of some system malfunction- STOP TOUCHING MY STUFF!" Pidge cried out, baring his teeth.
Hunk slumped to one side on the roof.

Pidge continued. "..So I've been scanning the system and I've been picking up manufactured zombie DNA strands in the base-"
"WHOA- what?" Hunk got up instantly from the ground. "Zombies??" He asked, acutely worried. Lance stayed unmoving,
"Okay, so you're insane. Got it."
"I'm serious, my scanner can't reach that far down underground, but near the surface there was a few traces of modified human DNA and... others. I picked up a video sound recording of the zombies and they kept one repeating one word: Altea." He picked up his notebook covered in crude doodles of some sort of symbol, and he pointedly tapped it.
"And tonight, it's going crazier than I have ever heard it."
"How crazy?"
Suddenly, speakers all across the Garrison turned on.
Attention students. This is not a drill- we are on lock-down. All students are to remain in their barracks until further notice.

Hunk got up, looking around. "What's going on? I-" There was a deafening explosion let off in the distance, the three shrieking and falling down as the roof shook into near rubble. Wide eyed, Pidge shot a finger at the sound of the explosion. "Look!"

There was a large torch ball of a sick orange entangled with purple electricity, rupturing the only Galra base in the entire state. It was far and the bomb was limited, but the visible radiation let by it was massively wide. The nearby quiet city now winded into chaos, with people screaming and cars honking- all audible to the rooftop of Garrison. Lance gawked. "Holy Cro..."
Pidge took a pair of binoculars and watched all the wreckage in the city unfurl. "Oh no..."
Lance swiped the lorgnettes from Pidge and looked for himself. "What-what is it?" The flare of the radiation reached the outskirts of the city. The unfortunate skyscrapers to get entangled with the flare was melted, the walls peeling back like paint. And the people...
"This can't be..."
Hunk took a turn on the sights, and shoved it back to Pidge after one second. "T-that's- oh no. I'm gonna be sick- oh god." Hunk pressed his hands against his mouth.
A more leveled alarm was now ringing, causing every single security derby to drive out. They were driving toward the city, and more were going off to the Galra base. Pidge packed his stuff and got up. "We gotta go there and see what's going on."
"Hunk come on." Lance went after Pidge and called for Hunk to come. Hunk, just recovering got up and ran too.
"Oh, this is the worst team building exercise ever."

---

Stealing a car from the Garrisons wasn't too much of a problem for Pidge, the only problem was Lance's driving. "Buckle your seat belts, cause here we GO." Lance lurched the car forward, the tires screeching onto the unpaved road.
"L-lance could you, uh, try shaking it less?" Hunk gulped, gripping onto the sides hard.
"Do you even know how to drive?" Pidge sat in the back, much to his dismay.
"ExCUSE me- of course I do! What kind of man would I be if I didn't?" Lance said through a roguish smile.
After one long and dizzying car ride, with Hunk puking out the window once or twice, they arrived at the scene. Pidge suggested they go up on a ledge nearby to be safe out of view. The Galran base here was isolated from the city- but still close enough to apparently tear it apart with a massive detonation. It was in the middle of a desert, not counting the east city line.

"Man..." Hunk breathed, looking back through the scope and to the city behind. "The buildings are... do you think they're alive? I-I mean the people?" Hunk looked sullen.
"Oh, if I'm right- which is most likely, they're plenty alive." Pidge answered grimly.
"Phew, well that's a relief- wait a minute... Oh no Pidge, are they really zombies now? H-how fast will it spread and stuff?" He realized.
"Well, the bomb let out a massive amount of the DNA into the air, but I'm sure it wouldn't do any harm unless it is injected into the bloodstream. From what we've seen back there those people had open wounds and-"
"Hey, Pidge take a look at this!" Lance was wild-eyed. "There are a ton of Garrison scientists and soldiers grouping around the base."

Pidge's view went there as well. "Why aren't the Galra doing anything about it? They're always so protective."

"Argh, there are too many guards- we can't get past that." Lance's brow furrowed.
"Aw man, yeah I guess there's nothing to do but head back to the barracks huh?" Hunk said with false dejection, and was already on his way back to the car until Pidge piped up.
"Hey guys? I grabbed a feed from one of the cameras in there. Check it out." Pidge angled her laptop.

Broadcasted on the tiny screen was a tall, muscular man tightened against a metal table. He looked strong, but couldn't do anything to break free.
"Hey- what are you doing?" His voice hitched with fear and fatigue.
"Calm down Shiro, we just need to keep you quarantined until we run some tests on you."
"No- you have to listen to me. You have no idea how long they've been- argh, planning this. You need to stop this before it spreads anymore- the Galra.. augh!" Shiro struggled against the restraints.

"That's Shiro! He was in the Association Mission and one of the best agents ever. That guy's my hero!" Lance jabbered.
"Guess he's not blown to bits after all." Hunk added. Pidge looked albeit upset.
"But where's the rest of the crew?"

One of the men in a white, protective suit continued. "Do you know how long you've been gone?" Shiro pulled at the straps.
"I don't know, months- years? Look there's no time. The Galra have a plan to destroy the world- there are so many, it's global! We MUST contact Altea." He urged.
"Altea!" Pidge exclaimed.
"Sir, take a look at this. It appears his arm has been replaced with a cyborg prosthetic." One man spoke. Another ordered, "Put him under until we know what that thing can do."
Already at the words "put him under" Shiro lifted his head up, frazzled. "Wha- no, no no! Don't put me under, there's no time!"
"They didn't ask about the rest of the crew." Pidge said in a quiet voice.
"What are they doing, the guy's a legend- aren't they even gonna listen to him?" Lance asked.
"We have to get him out."

Hunk got up, hands raised in protest. "Uh, I hate to be the voice of reason here- always- but weren't we just watching on TV because there was NO way to get past the guards?"
"That was before we were properly motivated. We just gotta think." Lance propped his finger under his chin. "..Could we tunnel in?"
Pidge joined. "Maybe we could get some hazmat suits and sneak in?"
"OR we dress up as cooks, head back to the dorms, and sneak into the commissary with a late night snack." Hunk suggested, smiling from the idea.
"... No. What we need is a distraction." Lance answered.

No sooner than he ended, a series of flashy explosions rippled through the plateau, triggering the alarms once more. Hunk hollered.
"What was that- was that the zombies- or the Galra?! How did they-" Hunk stopped his hyperventilating when Pidge interjected.
"No, those explosions WERE a distraction. For him." Pidge pointed out a hovering vehicle landing near the sight, with a small figure hopping off. "The Garrison's headed toward the blast, and he's sneaking in through the other side!"
Lance zoomed in with his binoculars. "No way!" His grip tightening. "Oh he is not going to beat us in there- that guy's always trying to one up me." Lance got up and began to run down the slanted ledge.
"Who is it?" Hunk asked.
"Keith!"
"Who?" Pidge picked up his bag.
Hunk continued. "Are you sure?"
"Oh- I'd recognize that mullet anywhere." Lance confirmed. Pidge exasperatedly ran after them. "Who's Keith?!" They all slid down the ledge, dust kicking up from beneath their feet.

Back inside the lab, two doors hummed and opened. And all the scientists turned to the figure at the doorway. Keith.
As Lance described, he had a black mullet with spiky bangs and a pair of shocking violet eyes. A red and white cropped jacket with matching boots, black shirt and pants underneath, and fingerless gloves clothed the intruder. He had a mouth mask on as well, covering his ashen skin, but that didn't deter him from looking angry. The three men, alert, took off to the boy. "Hey!"
With two swift kicks and one powerful punch, he knocked the men out, crashing them into the surrounding science equipment. He hopped over the bodies and straight to Shiro, pulling his bandanna off. Carefully, he nudged Shiro's unconscious face to his. He remembered him slightly differently. That scar spreading across his nose wasn't old, right? The tuft of hair on his forehead was now white, but it didn't effect the rest of his short black cut. And his right arm...
"Shiro?" Aghast, he flipped out a knife and smoothly cut the straps. Before he could walk out with Shiro leaning onto one of his arms, an abrupt and loud voice entered the lab, startling Keith.

"Nope!- ah no, nononono, no you don't, I'm saving Shiro." Lance roughly pushed away the table, hoisting Shiro's other arm around his neck.
"Who are you?" Keith felt disrupted, but not threatened.
"Who am I? Uh, the name's Lance." A pause. "We were at the same galaxy class at the Garrison?"
"Really are you an engineer?" Keith guessed.
"No, I'm a pilot- we were like rivals you know, Lance and Keith neck-and-neck?" Lance jogged his "rival's" memory.
"Oh wait, I remember you." Keith had a distasteful look. "You're a cargo pilot."
"Well, not anymore I'm fighter class thanks to you washing out." Keith eyed him up and down. This... boy had chocolate skin and a very morphable face- his eyebrows moving with ease. He had a light blue shirt with the Garrison military jacket on, though it looked like it had some modifications. Blue jeans and regular sneakers, he had a similar thin body frame to Keith's but was a few inches taller.
Monotonous, Keith said, "Well congratulations." And they both began to carry Shiro out the doors.

"Oh man, they're coming back and they do NOT look happy." Hunk said before turning to run towards Keith's strange hover bike. "Uh- do you mind if we catch a ride with you?" He climbed onto the back of the vehicle, causing it to creak and tilt backwards promptly.
Pidge shrieked. "Is this thing gonna be big enough for all of us?" He asked, unsure.
Keith gave an annoyed no. He looked up to see bright headlights racing towards the group. Keith thrust the handles forward and the engines blasted, flying into the air. The Garrison trio yelped.

The hover vehicle sped down the long desert- opposite from the city, but the Garrison derby was catching up.
Lance looked back. "Can't this thing go any faster?"
"We could toss out some nonessential weight." Keith deadpanned. Lance looked around.
"Oh right!... ...Okay so that was an insult, I get it."
Keith called out to Hunk. "Big man, lean left!" Hunk obeyed, and by doing so the entire motor tipped over- creating a sharp change of direction. The derbys behind couldn't keep up the same change at the speed they're going, so two of them toppled over and got wrecked.
"Big man, lean right!" Hunk held his breath and jerked himself right. They were all headed down an open gorge, landing on a built in path in the side. Another derby pummeled while everybody screamed.
"Guys- tututututut, is that a cliff up ahead?" Hunk's headband whipped and lashed crazily in the air and he raised a finger. Indeed, there was. Despite everyone's panic and "nonono"s, Keith leaned forward and thrust his handles more. "Yep."
All but Keith and Shiro shouted when the vehicle plummeted off of level ground and down, down, down.
"What are you doing, you're gonna kill us all!" Lance stumbled on one of the wings, shaking as the vehicle throttled into the air.
"Shut up and trust me!" Keith rasped and tugged at the brakes, cranking his foot pedals back. Right before they could hit the ground, the hover bike blasted wind underneath, inches from impact.
Speeding on ahead, they fled down the desert horizon, far away from the city and far away from the Garrisons.

Chapter Text

Shiro gazed at the sunrise, trying to remember something- anything. The sky was light pink and full of drifting clouds, and bird twittered in some nearby trees, lending out a peaceful atmosphere. Scattered across the russet landscape was large white boulders, some chipped and others almost intact. Keith's red hoverbike was parked next to his brown shack, the only one for miles and miles. This all did nothing however, to soothe Shiro. It was like a dream that's been shattered into pieces, and he was trying to pick the fragments up one by one, but all they did was erupt more questions. Shiro looked down on his robotic right arm, lost in thought.
Footsteps coming from behind didn't stir him, but the gloved hand that rested on his shoulder did. "It's good to have you back." Shiro turned and smiled appreciatively at Keith.
"It's good to be back."
"So what happened... where were you?" Keith's voice was restrained, but curious. Shiro's thick eyebrows knitted together.
"I wish I could tell you, my head's still pretty scrambled. I was taken by the Galra and to their underground world... somehow I escaped? It's all a blur." He averted his hazel eyes up, his scar standing out from his skin. His outwear was sleek and foreign, donning a belt of tiny satchels, like the ones Keith and Hunk wore.
"How did you know to come save me when the bomb went off?" Keith turned and led him back to the shack.
"You should come see this."

The inside of Keith's home wasn't a homey one. The clay walls were cracked from wear and the waving curtains did nothing to block the sun out. Papers were everywhere, but in neat stacks upon stacks. He walked in with the other three waiting patiently and tore a piece of cloth from the wall. Behind it was a vast bulletin board, covered in photos, graphs, ripped notes and connected strings.
"What have you been working on?" Shiro faced the board.
"I can't explain it really... after getting booted from the Garrison I was kind of.. lost and found myself drawn to this place. It's like something..." He struggled to find the words. "Some energy was telling me to search."
"For what?"
"Well, I didn't really know at the time until I stumbled across this area." Keith pointed his fingers onto a part of a map circled as the "Energy Source". "It's an outcropping of giant white boulders sticking out from the ground, with caves covered in these ancient markings. Each tells a slightly different story of about a white ship. Here's a picture." Keith pointed to another one. It was a sharp painting of a sort of mothership, a huge one. "But they all share clues leading to some event... some explosion happening last night. Then you showed up. You were the only prisoner left taken, but everybody else was evacuated into other Galra bases."
Pidge sighed.
Shiro stepped forward to the other three who were listening. "I should thank you all for getting me out. Lance right?" He held out his hand. Lance reached out as but hesitated upon seeing the cyborg arm. It gave out... a weird feeling that strung through Lance's spine. He looked up at Shiro and gave a smile, gripping the hand firmly. Then to Pidge. He shook it.
"The nervous guy's Hunk. I'm Pidge. So did anyone else from your crew make it out?"
"I'm not sure, I remember the diplomatic meeting and being knocked out. After that it's all just bits and pieces.."
"Yeah, sorry to interrupt but back to the zombies, where are they now, can they smell us- are they coming for us? Like, what's going to happen?" Hunk rambled anxiously.
"All I got from the DNA coding is that the Galra has made multiple species of zombies. Though, I wouldn't call them zombie just yet."
"Why not?" Hunk asked.
"Cause it sounds stupid. I want to find the real files for all of those different species they made. I'm sure the Galra has them all cataloged."
Shiro looked down, trying to remember something of the sort.
"I can't really put it together.. I remember the word 'Altea', it's some kind of large company similar to the Galras, but from what I've heard, they have superior technology. What happened to them- I don't know, but I think we should find them before they do." Shiro said decidedly. Hunk picked up Pidge's bag.

"Well uh, last night I was rummaging over Pidge's stuff and I found this picture." Hunk held up a frame of a boy and girl, the boy looking like Pidge, and a girl with a similar appearance, hugging Pidge. There was a rocket in the background. "Look it's his girlfriend." Hunk grinned.
"Hey- gimme that!" Pidge swiped it away and took back the bag. "What were you doing with my stuff?"
"Ah well I was looking for a candy bar- but then I started reading his diary-" Pidge fell back onto the couch. "What?!" He took that too.
"And I noticed that the repeating series of numbers the Galra are looking for looks a lot like a fraunhofer line?"
Keith crossed his arms. "Frown.. who?"
"It's a number describing the spectrum of an element, only this element is not from Earth. The energy source is coming from the highest concentration of all those white rocks. I thought it might be this "Altea" and I think I could build a machine to look for it, kind of like a Altean Geiger counter." Hunk explained.
"Hunk, you big gassy genius!" Lance smiled, impressed at his friend.

"It's pretty fascinating really, er- the wave length looks like this." Hunk took out a piece of folded paper, giving a dotted line appearance.
"Gimme that." Keith's hand snatched it out of Hunk's and he walked it back to the bulletin board. He held up the paper close to another photo of a location filled with pointy cliffs and mesas.
To their eyes, the paper and photo were one in the same.

---

"Okay, I admit it. This is super freaky." Lance's voice bounced between the many, many nook and crannies of the ravine. Standing out against the rusty orange of the ground, there were bright white rocks that emerged from the dirt. Not prominent, but enough to discover once close enough. They were long and creamy, impossible for it to be a natural occurrence. Pidge held up a black satellite as high as he could. Hunk shoved past, holding a detector that connected to it.
"I'm getting a reading." His nose in the screen, Hunk walked in between the twisted landscape. The farther he went, the more white pieces of rocks there were. The detector's stick moved faster and faster as Hunk ran further on, the static screeching louder. He gaped when it reached its maximum capacity in front of a cave opening. "Whoa..."

Shiro's voice reverberated. "What are these?"
"These are the line carvings I was telling you about. They're everywhere around here." Keith answered as the group walked further into the cave.
Smiling, Lance went up to one of the walls and examined it. "Hm." It was covered in a layer of dust and Lance's hand swept across it for a better view. He didn't know what noise that was, or where the electronic hum came from- but something must have happened. The engravings suddenly lit up into a blinding blue, shocking Lance. He gasped, taken back. The group looked around at the glowing symbols.
"They've never done that before." Keith said.
The dead end in front of them crumbled down into a pile of rubble, unraveling another cave. This seemed to be more of a cavern hallway, and the glowing patterns on the walls only got stronger there. Bit by bit, the darkness cut back.

"Well, guess we're going that way." Pidge commented.

It took a while walking down the steep ledges, following the glowing blue marks on the sides . Hunk cried out "Hello?"s all the way- just to be on the safe side.

After several minutes, the group finally found themselves at another dead end. It ended at two large pods that was half enveloped into the cave wall, made of the same smooth rock, milky white. They were different from the white rocks above ground. Above, they were cut sharply and looked like a chunk of some bigger form. These ones looked like they stayed intact, with a sort of control panel built in to the side of it.

"We came all this way for two more white rocks." Lance sighed. "We got plenty of those on top."
Keith squinted at the tall capsule closely and touched it, the glass underneath rippling weakly. "No, it looks like a chamber or something. Look, there's a force field. But it's too dark to see if anything's behind it." Lance walked right up to one.
"Well, maybe you just have to knock." Lance jokingly jibed, and promptly knocked it two times. He quickly retracted back with a shriek when the lights on the pods hummed alive. Cyan lights turned on at the bottom rim and something inside lit up. It showed the silhouettes of a person inside. Hunk hid behind a nearby boulder.

"Are these guys.. dead?"
The lights lit up a second time on the pod and it brightened briefly before dissolving the outside force field. Sparkling, it went from bottom to top, revealing a woman. She had smooth brown skin with incredibly long, waving white hair. She was wearing a sort of colored suit that existed very long ago and wore hanging purple gems as earrings. Her eyes that were pinched before now opened suddenly. She let out a small gasp.

"Father!" She cried out breathlessly, and she fell forward. Lance immediately reached forward and grabbed her from falling. She looked up curiously. Her skin was deeper than his, and Lance noticed that she had bright, bright blue eyes. It was a striking combination, one that left Lance blushing, and then smirking with ridiculous hopping eyebrows.
"Hello." Lance smiled, gleaming.
"Who are you.. where am I?" She looked around.
"I'm Lance, and you're right here in my arms." Lance looked down, speaking in a more flirtatious voice.
"Your clothes..." She started. He looked down, puzzled.
"Er.. yeah?"
"They're hideous. What's wrong with them." Lance jerked back a little, offended.
"Nothing's wrong with them! Your suit on the other hand- WhOOaa!" She grabbed Lance by the ears and flipped him around, pushing him on his knee. Lance winced from her pulling fingers.
"Who are you, where is CEO Alfor and what happened to our ship?" Eager to get out of the strong woman's hold, he rushed out.
"We just found these pods in this cave that's all we know!" She let go, Lance getting up with a pout.
"Where is everybody and why are only two pods ejected? A cave..? What are you all doing here?" She straightened herself, staring at the five in front of her. "Unless... how long has it been?"
"We don't know what you're talking about, why don't you tell us who you are? Maybe that can help." Shiro suggested.
"I...I am the chief director of the Altean organization. I've got to find out where we are." She began to walk to the dashboard installed in the pod and pressed her hands on it. A screen projected itself from the board and some buttons shined luminously, with Pidge looking behind it.

"Ookay, that's how that works."

As she worked on it, the second pod lit up and the glass pane fogged with gas unleashed with a hiss. Revealing this time was a man. He had a deep orange hair that curved back, with a thick mustache. His nose was hooked and his skin was peachy. He too, wore an article of old clothing. He came to and gasped at the new people, a lock of hair bouncing comically on his forehead.
"Enemy combatants!" He leaped out and went to the nearest unfortunate one, who was once again Lance. Though, the man's high accented voice didn't do anything to scare him away. He launched a kick at him, but Lance dodged it easily.
"Wah! Quiznak!" He leaned onto Allura's pod, staggering. "You're lucky I have a case of the old sleep chamber knees, otherwise I'd grab yer head like this- wrap you up like so, and then one, two, three-" He demonstrated all of this and then snapped his fingers. "-sleepy time!" He declared. Lance joined. "Well before you did that I'd have, Hua! Ha, yah! Like that." Lance crossed his arms after practicing a showy three step high kick. The man confronted.
"Oh really! Well how could you do that when I already come at you with this? Ha-ha, Hah!" He squared his knees and did a chopping bite motion with his hand whilst inching forward. Lance smiled with bemusement.
"Man, these guys are good." Hunk added.

"It can't be." Allura's face reacted from some numbers on her screen.
"What is it?" The man asked, coming closer to the small screen.
"We've been asleep for 5,000 years!" She choked out, her memory reeling back to before she was put into the sleeping chamber. What did she remember? She remembered facing heavy fire and bullets to the ship, she remembered everybody she knew either abandoned or dead outside. The only ones who remained in was Allura, her second in command man, and leader, Alfor. Her father.

---

"Zarkon." He spited in a low voice.
A large screen on the window of their ship appeared with the wrinkled face of someone who was more metal than man. He had purple eyes glowing from underneath his helmet and plates of metallic skin. His teeth were jagged and through that mouth weaved a thick, burly string of thundery words.

"Your fleet has been destroyed Alfor. I will be there shortly to claim the ship." Then the projector turned off, uncovering the massive window to a Galran ship charging up a purple beam of laser, and shortly after blasting it against the ship's field.
"Father!" Allura urged. "We must release the paladins before it's too late!"
"It's already too late, we must teleport the ship away, we can't risk our blueprints falling into Zarkon's hands." Her tall father had white hair as well, and a short thin beard. A weave of hair fell onto his tired face.
"But that has never worked before! Our teleportation systems are weak from the heavy hitting, we can't give up hope!" She despaired. Her father came up to her and placed his hands on her face.
"I'm sorry daughter, if all goes well, I will see you again soon." Before Allura could retort, he pressed his fingers against her neck, pressing a dull pressure point. Her vision blurred and she felt faint. "Father-" Her hand reached out.
"I love you." And that's when she drew blank.

---

"Everyone in our team, and all of our bases have been destroyed." Her voice quivered as she turned to the ginger man. "Coran, father is gone. Our ship... Everything we've built.." With the most heat and spite she could put into it, she seethed. "Zarkon." Shiro gasped, remembering at the mention of the name.
"Zarkon?" He whispered.
"He was the head of the Galra. A vile creature, and enemy to all free people!" Shiro gazed down.
"I remember now... I was his prisoner." He said. "Almost nobody knows the secret CEO of the Galra, but I do. He's the head of the Galra Tech right now."
"He's still alive? Impossible!" Allura held her hand close.
"I can't explain, but it's true. He's searching for the remains of your ship, I remember the word 'Altea' being used often."
"He's searching for it because he knows only we can surpass his technology. Altea has existed before theirs had.. and he wants our knowledge to work for his dirty schemes. But now the ship is gone... He..." Her voice faded.
Hunk looked extremely sympathetic, and offered her a pat. She sighed.
"... The teleportation system must have worked. It appears we are in an underground cave system. The coordinates were a bit off and the ship crashed, but... he did it. He saved us." Allura looked down.
"Our team... our families. Oh, Coran they're all gone!" She cried out. Coran hugged her as she tried to restrain from sniffling. Once done she shuddered and straightened herself.
"Hey? I'm.. sorry to interrupt but there's something in your pod." Lance peered over into Allura chamber and she followed. She gasped.
"Oh! Some parts of the ship survived after all!" Inside the pod was a blue bayard, a handle built in made for gripping. She held it delicately.
"It's still in prime condition as well..." Then Allura turned to the team. "Zarkon tried to take our ship, but he failed. My father teleported the ship but in doing so, it ripped it apart. All but... but my pod and Coran's." She gestured to the funky man. "There must be more pieces lying around. Help me find it?" Allura asked.
"Of course. But please, teleportation?" Shiro smiled and Allura returned brightly so.

---

Walking side by side back up to the cave entrance, Shiro asked Allura plenty of questions and he answered Allura's to match. That included explaining the events leading up to all this. Pidge joined in too, regarding their technology.

"I can't believe your team has made such advanced technology over 5,000 years ago. All this time and we still don't have a fraction of it." Shiro said, impressed. Allura smiled.
"Yes. I'm surprised the rest of the world hasn't gotten this far yet."
Pidge stepped in. "Well to be fair, we did have a World War Three which took a lot of time to recover from. It was long ago but uh, that counts." He grinned. Allura looked shocked at the news.

"How did the Galra destroy your entire team and get away with it? Such a big thing like that would've been headline news. Anything from them would have been big news really." Shiro said.
"Oh, they know how to cover up their tracks." Allura said bitterly. "They've done the same thing to any opposing organization of science or engineering that has ever gotten close or passed them. Remember how I said that the Altean Organization existed before the Galra? Well, they rose quickly and made big name for themselves. I can see that after all this time, this remains true."

"But they're so secretive and they never tell us what they're working on!" Lance said, walking behind her. Allura nodded.
"Sounds like them. But there is one thing I cannot understand. How did you all get through our force field?" Lance was quick to brag.
"Oh you know, I just knocked it down by myself." He smirked.
"You just knocked on it. Twice." Keith retorted.
"Tomato potato." He said with a wave of his hand. Allura looked thoughtful for a moment. "Lance is it? Could you please hold this bayard?" She gave it out to him. Once holding it, another bright figure built onto it and then formed into a futuristic gun. Lance gawked. Everyone did.
"Wooo!" He held it in position and swiped it around.
"They... it activated." Allura went to Shiro wide eyed. "We must find the other bayards. If my theory is correct, then there might be a way to stop Zarkon once and for all." The others glanced at each other briefly, before nodding and running back out to the entrance.

---

Once back up on the surface Allura squealed at how much debri from the ship survived the crash. Coran observed the landscape.

"Why, it appears your father has used all the ship's energy to teleport. Indeed, it was the ship's demise, but he did it." He smiled softly at Allura. She gave a determined nod.

"Everyone, there are five bayards, one in which Lance has now. I believe that was the reason why Lance was able to open my force field." "Because your heart was in it?" Lance winked. Allura looked dismissively annoyed but continued.
"Because the bayards connect with its owner. The quintessence of the occupant is mirrored in his bayard. The previous owners are long gone... so the bayards chose a new one. The five link with select souls that they know will become the perfect team once bonded. A team that can overcome Zarkon. That team, must be you."
Allura said assuredly. "Team? With this guy?" Lance pointed at Keith and they both glared at each other. Allura, once again, continued.

"These bayards are of high energy, and were carved from a large meteor that shot out from space. This just might be the only form of technology we have left. But even this alone could be enough to stop Zarkon. I know it."

"Besides taking form of the holder's reflection and being insanely cool, what else is so special about it? I mean, how can it defeat Zarkon?" Pidge asked.
"It envelopes the user in a clear force field and connects with them telepathically in a way, giving out warnings or senses as we like to call them. Lightweight, retracts into a bayard whenever you will, and deadlier than a gun. It was the organization's top technological advances." Pidge's eyes sparkled.

"Sold."

"So Allura, do you think we might be able to find them in some of these white remains of your ship? There are... a lot of them out here." Shiro gestured to the entire horizon littered with shimmering stones.

"We'll have to try. This is the only hope left for the world if Zarkon continues his plan. You, are the only hope left. This just the beginning, and I know you all must be the five new paladins." Everybody looked at each other hesitantly, before nodding. "Let's hope this is true. Everyone, search!"

---

It has been an hour and a half since everybody went searching. Allura told them to try "feeling" where the bayards are, since they connected to each other. But by now, everyone was having some doubts.
Pidge pulled at a half opened lid that was fitted into one particularly big rock.
"Come on.. you stupid drawer- WhoAA!" The container gave in and flew out, knocking Pidge backwards. He groaned, rubbing his butt, when he saw...

...that there was nothing in it. "Argh- Come ON!"
Shiro came by and offered a cyborg hand to lift him up. After taking it, Shiro said,
"You'll find it."
"But... look, I know that Allura said that we have to get the bayards and that we're a team, but what if she's wrong? Like, what if it doesn't activate when I touch it? S-she probably isn't cause she's the head of a super advanced technology and engineering company, bigger then the Galra! But I mean, the odds of US five being the new owner and therefore team to stop Zarkon is astronomical! And what if my inner self is different from what I'd think it to be? Considering if they connect with the inner soul, the part that not even we'd probably know about yet. Won't that make it harder for me to get used to the weapon? I can totally see Lance as a sniper guy, but what about me? What if I get a gun too? I didn't do so well in the Garrison shooting program so I-"
"You're rambling." Shiro smiled. Pidge quieted down. "Listen. Our commander of the Association Mission is the smartest man I ever met. And he always said, if you get too worried about what could go wrong, you might miss a chance to do something great." Pidge softly gasped, his face melting into one of serenity. He closed his eyes, heart thumping loudly. Alright then... Color... green... location...

Pidge jerked as he looked up, his eyes wide open and stared at Shiro. Shiro urged, "Go on, be great." Pidge smiled, did a cute military salute, and ran off with his eyes closed, his soul vibrating slightly.

"Hey Hunk, any luck?" Lance walked up to him lazily.
"Ugh, no. I keep opening these containers and stuff but I just can't find it!" Hunk groaned. "You're lucky, getting your bayard already."
"Yea, isn't it awesome? It can activate and go back to normal just by me thinking of it! Look, check it out. Activate!" The bayard glowed into a gun. "Deactivate!" It dissolved back to normal. "Activate, deactivate, activate- Man this is fun." Lance stopped and put it away. Then he went over to Hunk. In a lower tone he said,
"Hey man, it's okay. You'll find it. Just do whatever the hot lady said. 'Connect with your inner soul'." He chuckled.
"How?"
"I dunno, just close your eyes or something. Imagine it. Try... try visualizing it in your head?" Lance shrugged. "It was weird but.. before Allura even showed me the bayard, I sort of saw how it looked like already."

"Huh?"

"Like, I saw the color blue and the rough shape of the bayard when Allura's pod opened. It was literally just a second, but try it dude. Think on it."
"What the heck. Sure bro." Hunk grinned. He closed his eyes, thinking of Lance's bayard, but in a different color. What color would it be... A fuzzy recollection of golden yellow gathered in Hunk's mind, shimmering. Yellow! Good, now where is it... His insides shook, making him shiver. It was close, really close. Then he gasped.
"Lance! I think I know where it is!"
"Whoa really? Where?"
"I uh... I might be sitting on it." Hunk said sheepishly and he tore away the scrap of metal he was sitting on. Underneath was a container. Encrusted around and on the container was the same symbols from the cave, though this time a glowing gold. It was as if over all these years, the power from the bayard leaked out and bled into the ground around it.
"Come dude open it!" Lance bent over to see. Hunk cracked his knuckles and ripped away the lid. Inside was the yellow bayard, shining in the hot desert sun. He had done it. Hunk was the holder. He smiled wide.

"Haha! When I said think on it, I didn't mean it literally!" Lance laughed. "Lance! I connected with it! We're in a team!" He held it up, ecstatic.
"Aw, I knew you could do it bro."
"Bro!"
"Bro." They hugged each other, with Hunk doing much of the squeezing. Right then, Hunk's bayard activated. It glowed into a much bigger form, and once the yellow coating dissolved- it unveiled a large cannon gun. Machine gun perhaps. It toppled the two over, with Hunk landing on Lance.
"Man this is awesome!" He handled the gun with a firmer grip, smiling. "Uh.. Lance? Buddy?" He looked around.
A muffled cry came from underneath him.
"Oh, oops."

---

Coran cried out in victory. "Hah! I found a set of mics! There's about one full set, enough for everybody AND backups." He jumped out of the box he was in and handed them to Allura.
"Oh thank you Coran, these will do nicely." She put one on her right ear and Coran did the same.
"I'll distribute these now, and uh... boss?"
"Yes Coran?"
He came up and whispered, even though everyone else was far off. "Are you sure these five are the ones? Takes a lot to bond as a team, and they don't know what Zarkon had been planning for all these centuries yet. They probably haven't even the slightest clue what the Galra are... really about."
Allura admitted. "No, but they're all we've got. They're the ones who freed us, and just in the nick of time it seems. Shiro's recollection of the Galra present day is... it's threatening in the least. If they ARE chosen by the bayards then it's for a reason. I just hope it truly is all of them. We can't waste any time." Coran smiled.
"If you say so Allura." He bounced off to the others and explained how the mics worked.

Elsewhere, Keith had a harder time finding his bayard. He dashed place to place, sliced and hacked at the boulders with his handy knife, and always gave it a good kick if it didn't give. He had sprinted across an entire section of white boulders, but he stopped when he saw a row of battered and scratched up rocks, done by his own dagger. He slumped against one of them and yelled.
"Ugh, you've got to be kidding me!" He closed his eyes, fuming.

"Hey, it's alright. I didn't find mine either." Keith jumped and turned around to Shiro, smiling sympathetically.
"I searched this entire place and found nothing. I heard Pidge found his, and Lance wouldn't shut up about how Hunk found his. I just-" He sighed. Shiro put a hand on his shoulder.
"Remember, patience yields focus. Close your eyes- stop peeking- and try to calm down." Keith did just that. He calmed down after a minute, and took a deep breath.
"Patience yields focus..." Keith whispered to himself. His mind began to wander back to the bayard. Red... pulsed through his brain. Keith nodded for more. Then a stream of images poured into his head, a location finally settled.

Keith opened his eyes and gave Shiro a thanking smile.
"Gotcha." He turned and began to run, his boots pattering to the known location. Shiro chuckled, and then looked toward the setting sun. The sky mixed in with a soft hue of red, yellow and purple.
"Now. Time to find mine."

---

Everybody later gathered at Keith's front yard, the sun almost completely gone.

"Come oon, show me the goods!" Lance chanted at Pidge and Keith. Keith was the first to activate his red bayard. A long sheath fabricated and solidified into a sharp sword. At the same time, a faint forcefield was released, forming a tight closure to him and soon becoming transparent. Lance jeered.
"Aw, looks like I can't tackle you." Keith rolled his eyes. Lance came up and gave a practice punch on his arm.
"Ow!" Keith said annoyed, surprised more than anything.
"Oh, never mind. I still can. How about you Pidge?" Pidge's constructed into a thin, glassy edge. It resembled the tip of a leaf and gave an emerald glow. It was agile and slick, much to Pidge's initial pleasure.
"Aw, you got a cute little one." Lance cooed. Pidge swiftly smacked Lance's stomach with the back of it, zapping his entire body. Lance shrieked and fell backwards- twitching.
"Yeah, it is pretty cute." Pidge simpered.

Shiro was the last to come. "Shiro, you didn't find it?" Keith asked astounded.
"How? You helped Keith and me get it!" Pidge deactivated his bayard.
Allura looked concerned, but a quick streak of realization swept her eyes. "Oh Shiro. I-I'm afraid your bayard was lost with its paladin."
Shiro nodded, somewhat relieved that it wasn't because he couldn't connect with it. "I guess I'll just have to make do."

Coran walked in. "Allura? What now? The base here was apparently blown up and the city must be infested by now. We'll need a jet or plane to go to the Galra headquarters, assuming it's in the same spot as it was before."
Shiro intervened. "Sorry, but main central headquarters aren't bound into a single spot anymore. Zarkon turned it into a large ship, maybe to be like yours. I recall that much."
Coran snapped his fingers. "Well quiznak. This'll be harder then."

Allura looked thoughtful. "I see... Coran? There are a lot of Altean scrap metal and parts up here. You don't think you could..?" Coran jumped up, adjusting his collar with eyelids proudly closed. "Why I thought you'd never ask! I'll have a makeshift Altean ship up and running in no time at all! They didn't call me the 'Coranic' for nothing." He opened an eye to the others staring at him. "You know like uh, mechanic- only with Coran, Coranic, mechanic. It sounds, not exactly alike, but similar. Heh." Allura chuckled for his sake.

"Coran, do you mind if the rest of us stay here? We seemed to have missed a lot. For tonight, we will stay at Keith's home- if that is alright with you of course." Keith shrugged.

"Sure. It's a bit small, but you all can rest up here... except for Lance. You gotta stay outside." Keith smirked. Lance jumped.
"What?! Excuse me! Haven't you heard of being a good host?.." The two commenced to argue.
Coran chirped, "I'll be off then!" And he ran off into the desert, carrying white metals around like a mad man. "It would be better to get everyone trained in the morning. We can do it in the city, get a feel for how it is like. There are also bound to be people trapped in there. But as of now it's too risky at night. Shiro, can you tell me everything that has happened... since 5,000 years ago?" She asked.
"Only if you explain how you two slept for 5,000 years, then of course." Shiro traded.

---

The Galran ship was sleek but not as aerodynamic as the troops controlled by it. It was gargantuan, full of prisoners which were deposited to and fro the many bases Zarkon has built. Visiting them rarely, he mainly stayed on the head of the deck- absorbing stolen quintessence. This allowed him to carry on, dragging long past the years he was supposed to live out. He made sure that his assistant and witch Haggar did the same, since she controlled most of the science behind their raid of quintessence. The old woman always had a hood draped over her head, and tousles of white hair coming out of it. Her skin too, was a light purple, but it had more of an indigo tint to it than Zarkon's. Shoulders often hunched over, two long red steaks trailed down her cheeks.
In one session of internal aura training, she awoke from her trance hissing. In the throne room, she walked up to Zarkon. He wore a thick case of armor and had morphed jagged fingers. Though ancient, he was strong and heavily built. He had one long scar trailing down his left cheek.

"Emperor Zarkon. I feel a resurgence of Altean technology. They have been renewed with another five paladins." Haggar's voice was as serrated as her fangs.
"Alfor's daughter lives. How?" Zarkon's voice rumbled.
"I know not. But they are the only hindrance between what is rightfully ours. They must be wiped off instantly."
"Yes. Not even a smudge like them shall remain on my window to power. Contact my commanders."

"Commander Sendak." Zarkon's deep voice came onto a projector to one of his larger bases.

"The chief supervisor of Altea is alive and hiding in your nearest sector. The Galran base in that area is gone, all according to plan. Your battle fleet is closest to her. Retrieve any scrap of engineering they might have and bring the paladins to me. With them gone, the Galra empire will be unstoppable."
Sendak bent on a knee and saluted him, fist to his chest. He was a bit more furry, but purple nevertheless, and had protruding ears at the top of his head. His left arm was gone and replaced with an amplified robotic version, connected to the shoulder by a beam of laser. His right eye was also replaced with a red mechanical one.
"I fight for the empire. I conquer in the name of Galra. No foe has ever stood in my way, and none ever will. Vrepit sa!" He ended and Zarkon's contact closed. He got up and turned to his pilots.
"Set a course to the coordinates."

---

"Fascinating!" Allura smiled. "Oh, and thank you Keith for letting us eat here as well." She munched on a biscuit. "It has been 5,000 years after all. So Shiro, about the engine..." Hunk was next to Keith, peering at the stove.
"The cookies are okay but... they could use something extra, can I try making something, please?" Keith turned and closed the refrigerator.
"No."
"Oh come on, I said please!"
"I don't really want you messing around in my kitchen. Besides, we should all sleep soon." Keith walked back to where Allura and Shiro were talking. Lance was chatting to Pidge who seemed to be handling some of the white rocks.

"Keith, you're going to regret it. Seriously, Hunk is the best engineer AND that applies to food too." Lance grinned.
Keith gave a hefty sigh, glancing at the big man. "Fine." Hunk's eyes sparkled and he gave a quick thanks before running into the kitchen.
"Why are you such a party pooper? Relax. Tomorrow we're going to 'train' anyway." Lance stretched.
"Exactly why we should get more sleep." He huffed, sitting down on the couch.
"Hey, I'm all about my beauty sleep, but look at how much fun Shiro and Allura are having! They both definitely deserve it. Pidge is working on some of those weird rocks and Hunk is cooking now! Let it last." Keith took it in, nodding slowly and then eventually smiling. It was true that Shiro went through a lot, and so did Allura. He was somewhat surprised at his answer.
"Maybe you're right, the city probably won't be a walk in the park so-"
"Of COURSE I'm right." Lance winked. "With a face like this, what could go wrong?"
Keith took his smile back.

"Allura? What do you call this stuff?" Pidge gestured to the white stones. "I know it's an unknown element from space and all, but do you guys have a name for it?" She nodded. "Yes, we called it Alteanium. The only substance that can withstand the intense heat of the thermosphere." Pidge hummed.
"I thought the Galra had advanced technology to pass the thermosphere?" Keith joined in the asking.
Allura rolled her eyes. "They claim. If they truly had enough of Alteanium they wouldn't be so fervent to go after ours, and they'd be off and conquering planets by now."
"So... does that mean the moon landing was fake?" Keith sparked with poorly hidden interest.
"Mmm... confidential." Allura spoke slyly from behind her cup.
"Oh come on!" She laughed.

I'm calling the couch!" Pidge cried out.
"Me too! Two can fit." Hunk yelled from the kitchen. Lance whipped his head back and forth.
"Wha- no fair! What about us!?"
Pidge giggled and went back to his rocks. Lance groaned. "Do you have a bed or something?"
"Yes." Keith piqued.
"Okay well how many? Because this dump doesn't look like it'll fit much."
"Hey, don't insult the host."
"Why? I thought they're supposed to serve the guests, mullet." Lance sneered. Keith got up.
"You little-" Hunk dashed in with a baking tray balanced on his head.

"Whoa whoa, guys. No fighting, or else no special homemade cookies." Lance gasped loudly.
"Alright you got me Hunk. I'll play nice, I promise." Hunk smiled and went back to the kitchen.
"Looks like you won't be able to say anything now." Keith chafed.
"No, I can be nice, just watch me. 'Sides, you're the one with an anger issue."
"I do NOT-" Keith cut himself off, scowling.
"What? Can't be nice for three minutes straight?" Lance challenged.
"Of course I can! What, can you stop annoying me for five minutes?"
"Make it 10."
"No way."
"Bring it on!"
Hunk groaned audibly from the kitchen. Pidge laughed. "At least they aren't going to fight, but my money's on Lance losing."
"What? Oh, he can control himself when he wants to."
"Wanna bet on it?"
"I will not bet on my friend's-"
"Winner gets 20 bucks."
Hunk stayed silent, making Pidge cackle.

Allura, Coran and Shiro watched the scene unravel from their table.

"As a team, their bond needs to be unbreakable. How can they compete so much with each other?" Coran asked questioningly.
"Maybe that's just their way of bonding." Shiro shrugged, sipping on a glass of water whilst smiling.
"Okay paladins, lights out." Allura got up as everyone groaned.

"But baaabe." Lance leaned in from the couch.
"Flirting counts too." Keith added with a smirk.
"What?! How? That's not fair!"
Hunk chuckled. "Okay, now I'm glad I didn't take that bet."
---

Chapter Text

The newly formed team woke up early in the morning.

"Way too early." Pidge scratched his back, getting up from the bed. He walked and looked out the window. Coran was still working.

"Huh?" Pidge put on his glasses. "No way! Hunk, you won't believe this!" Hunk rose from the dead and rubbed his eyes. Once he saw the majestic ship Coran was working on, he sprang out of bed like a ballerina and they both ran outside.

Lance and Keith had to share one pull out bed, much to their dismay. By dawn, one was sleeping horizontally and the other was vertically underneath. The shouts and cries from outside woke them up, and both yelped, jumping out of bed and rubbing off where they had accidentally touched each other.
"Not a word of this, ever."
"Agreed." Then they raced down the stairs and to join the guys outside.

On a regular bed was where Allura and Shiro were sleeping. There was enough room for another to squeeze in, but when Allura offered Coran to come in and rest, he refused.
"It's just like him to work overnight." Allura shook her head. Now dawn, Allura gently woke Shiro up.
"What." Shiro buried his face into the pillow.

"Come take a look at Coran's work!" Shiro got up and stretched to the bright window. Once his eyes adjusted, he gasped.
It was a tall, rounded ship- but with plenty of aerodynamic additions. It was milky white and lit up by cyan lights, and plenty of areas exposed a clear view to the clinking wheels and chips. Some of the circuits glowed on the outside too and it seemed incomplete in some places, but Coran made it work. The four outside were all over the ship, waving to Shiro.
"How did..?" Shiro stared.
"Well, that's Coran for you." Allura smiled. "He is our most talented engineer. I had complete faith in him to restore as much of our previous ship as possible."
"How large was your ship before Zarkon?"
"About 300 times larger than that one." Shiro choked. Allura began to walk down the stairs and Shiro followed.

---

"This is insane!" Lance stared at the large ship that blocked the sun from his sight.
"It's incredible is what it is." Pidge kissed the ship. "I think I'm in love!" Hunk knocked on the ship.
"You were able to create all of this by scrap metal only?" Hunk gawked.
"Well I found plenty of functional parts lying around, including those two healing pods, but yeah." Coran sighed, twirling his mustache. "She's a beauty." He sighed. Hunk went up to Coran with tears in his eyes. He bent down and bowed,

"Teach me your ways."
Allura and Shiro joined them now. "Ah Allura! What do you think, hmm?" Coran beamed from all the praise.
"Splendid Coran! How many bedrooms were you able to implement?"

"Bedrooms? Sick! It's like our own flying motel!"
Lance laughed.

"Just enough for three." Keith could be heard groaning. "And yes Lance it is, after all, we'll need to have our form of transportation if we want to get to all the Galra bases around the world." Coran said chipperly. "You see, my great grandfather built the original and he-"
Hunk spoke up, "Hey guys, before we get inside the mechanical wonder miracle of a ship, how about we eat?"

---

Later, everyone boarded the large ship. It was a small fraction of the original, but it was huge either way. Keith insisted that his hover bike gets boarded on as well. After exploring the place thoroughly, from the top of the control system, to the bottom of the engines, everyone buckled in. The ship gradually left the ground and it whirred smoothly into the sky, leaving Keith's ranch behind. The crew was munching on some pancakes.

"Oh man, Hunk we need you to be our official cook. Please." Hunk beamed.

"Aw, thanks Lance. The tools in the ship's kitchen was really useful though."

Coran butted in from the back. "Hey! What about my delicious breakfast porridge this morning?"

"Coran, no offense buddy, but it was goo. It was literal goo." Lance said frigidly, but the corners of his lips turned up.

"It was stone packed with nutrients for your health!" He sighed. "Honestly kids these days."

The outline of city skyscrapers was visible now. Allura slowed down when moving past the obliterated Galra base.

"Shiro please, hold on for a moment." She asked.

"What is it?"

"The bomb... did it explode just on top or all of the inside?" Allura asked, looking at the demolished building. "Galra bases were known for their ridiculously deep underground premise. I believe that they would have only added onto it over all these years."

Shiro nodded. "I see... so maybe we can find some supplies in there worth scavenging for."

Allura nodded. "Exactly! And there might still be some prisoners left there." Pidge smiled approvingly at that.

"We're going to land." Allura pulled over right next to the building, the wind from their engines sprinkling sand everywhere. All Galra entrances looked the same: heavy barbed wires circling tightly around and electric generators.

Only now those were gone. And the classic logo on the top of the doorways was also gone. For the better anyway. All security or doors were down, all except for an opening in the ground leading to a long stairway headed down. It was very dark down there, even with the morning sun. "Paladins, remember that our main mission is to find survivors and rescue them. Get any item along the way and always be on your guard. The Galra did some.. nasty experiments back when, and I am certain that they still do."

Everyone activated their bayards, the glow giving some light to the short steps.

Hunk took a deep breath, ready to call out once more, but Keith shut him up with one finger. "No. Just no."

Hunk deflated.

---

The stairway echoed with leaking pipes and watery drains. There were incomprehensible noises resounding from far down below.

"Ugh, aren't there elevators here?" Lance stuck his nose in the air. "It stinks in here."

"Not much better than your ego." Keith muttered loudly.

"Not much better than your mullet!" Lance stuck his face in Keith's. They glared at each other but broke their silent staring competition once they reached the bottom of the stairway. They entered a laboratory of sorts. There were millions of shattered glass on the floor and some papers littering it. Pidge bent down to collect all the papers in his bag while Hunk walked warily around, opening the cabinets for anything.

"This can't be the only possible room in this base. Look for hidden doors or compartments." They all begun to search, looking under battered mats, behind metal storage units, etc. Lance opened a drawer and whistled.

"Dang, look at these fine babies." Lance picked up two guns, more built in modern time than his other futuristic laser one. One was a revolver, and another was a modified handgun. "Hey, Hunk! Catch." He threw the handgun to him and Hunk caught it.

"Oh uh.. thanks Lance." Hunk eyed the gun suspiciously.

" Come on, you've got a laser machine gun slash cannon thingy, you can deal with a handgun." Lance snorted. "Who wants the revolver? Pidge?"

"Alright. Never know when you go long range, right?" Pidge took it and clipped it to his belt with a shrug.

Meanwhile Shiro and Coran moved a leaden metal table. Both tried to ignore the strange stains covering it. Revealed underneath the large centerpiece was a shut trapdoor.

"Hey everybody look." Shiro called them over. "It's another hatch, but it's way smaller. None of us will fit through it... except." They all peered at Pidge.

"...What? Why is everyone- oh really? Uugh!" Pidge slumped. "It sucks being the shortest."

"Sorry Pidge, but we've got to see if there is anybody trapped in there. If I had my quintessence scanner with me... Pidge? Could you?" Allura asked.

Pidge nodded quickly and peered at the looming hatch. Then his head jerked away. "Euk, it smells rancid." Keith behind was found shuffling through a cluttered drawer.

"Here, this'll help." Keith threw a small gas mask towards Pidge and he shrieked.

"Wha! But I've- oh forget it. I'll do it." Pidge hooked the mask on and tightened it. "It's sort of old, but it works. Thanks Keith." He smiled.

"Oh come on, I give you a revolver and I don't get thanks?" Lance put a backhand to his forehead dramatically and pouted. Keith was about to say something, but stopped when he realized he was just being dramatic. Pidge chuckled, and though it was hard to tell with the gas mask on, he probably stuck his tongue out. With one final look, he wiggled through the hatch and fell down.

---

"Oof!" Pidge landed hard on a squishy surface. His bayard turned on, but it provided minimum light. He wrinkled his nose up; he could still smell some faint odor of what might have been a mixture of throw up and piss. He tried to swallow down a gag. Turning his mic on he spoke, "Guys, it is putrid in here."

He could hear a distant. "Bet it's Keith's fault."
"Seriously?"

A larger voice came in. "It is Allura. Pidge are you alright down there?"

"Yeah kind of. I'm walking on something gooey, and it's super dark down here." Pidge began to walk around, hands reaching out for the walls blindly.

"I'm suspecting high bacterial infection down here. The force field from my bayard protects against that, right?"

"Yes, it protects against physical damage and chemicals as well. Paladins however can still touch each other, Altean forcefield against forcefield is admitted. You should be fine, even when the bayard is not activated."

"Sweet." Pidge instantly felt better and walked in longer steps. He bumped into something fat and spongy. "What on earth..?" Pidge tried groping the thing. It felt like one of those cheap "Goo-Do" brands, but what was it?

"I need more light! Do any of you have a flashlight up there?"

"I have some leftover glowsticks." Hunk offered. "B-before you say anything, it's leftovers from one of Lance's midnight 'adventures'."

"I won't even ask. If it's all you've got then throw it down." Pidge rolled his eyes. Three long sticks fell down from the open patch of light and Pidge picked them up. Then he crackled and stretched them until it glowed brightly.

"It's working! Now let's se- WhoahoWHA!" Pidge stumbled back from the huge disgusting pile of goop. He couldn't tell what it was, but he had a sinking suspicion it was flesh. Was he stepping on flesh this whole time? Trembling from the idea, he deliberately looked up.

"G-guys, um, there's a lot of... flesh down here?" Pidge gulped.

"What? Oh dear." Allura's voice rose. "Okay, we're going to find a rope to raise you back up, but is anything down there alive?"

"I don't think so." Pidge averted the glowsticks to the walls. There were some papers pinned to a musty board, and he squinted to get a better look.

"There's a poster down here? It says... 'Take out deposits on Wednesday'. Am I- Am I in the trash chute?" He almost laughed.

Hunk's voice came on. "Where I belong." Pidge nearly snorted.

"But seriously guys, what is flesh doing in the trash, that is so messed up." He was going to go back to the light source, but something caught his eye. He gasped.

"Hey, there's a door over there! I'm gonna open it." Pidge propped one leg up the wall and pulled at the knob with all his might. "Oh, for the love of.." He swiped his bayard into the door, sparks flying. Then he gave it a good kick. The door fell crashing down.

"Opened it, now wish me luck." Pidge uttered.

---

This hallway was lit up, surprisingly. It was dim, but far better than the trash chute. He decided to read some papers he found from the lab earlier while walking. It was a journal entry.

December 16

Experiment #903 was a failure. All this new formula did was dissolve the human silly until he melted onto the metal board. Now I have to buy a new one. But on the upside, all that stuff in the trash? It's starting to clump together. I just might take a sample of it and try my own little side research on it. Its properties are of regular human flesh, but what is holding it together? Who knows, I've poured millions of solutions down there, but I'm sure I can track it back down if anything interesting were to happen.

On a separate topic, this new test subject is a feisty one, he keeps escaping from our jail cells.

Pidge's heart fluttered. Could it be?

His name is Jeremy Len. Number is #9T98M2AC. Keep an eye on him.

He felt himself sink. Of course it wasn't. What was he thinking? Out of all the trillions that have probably been here, what were the odds of picking a loose piece of journal with... He stopped walking all together and looked down. He took out the picture out of his pocket and sighed, pocketing it back shortly.

No time for reminiscing. He shoved the thoughts away and ran down the hall. Back up above in the lab, Hunk discovered something.

"Uh, guys you might want to come here?" Hunk called out from the stairway back up. "There are doors on the sides of the walls." Hunk pressed against an inconveniently shaped ledge sticking out from the walls, and a door had formed.

"That's... new." Allura noted. "How many of these are implemented into the wall?" She ran her hands across the soot covered walls, until she pressed something. A large humming spit into life, and more of the ceiling lights lit up. Pidge's voice came on in response.

"Was that you? I don't know what you did, but it's much lighter here now." Allura turned back to them. "Okay, everyone find more hidden doors. There must be a prison cell complex around here somewhere." Everyone began to pat the wall through every inch.

"Hey, bet you can't find more doors than me?" Lance smirked at Keith.

"This isn't a competition."

"But it's fun isn't it? Oh, hey I found one!" His fingertips brushed over an invisible button, and a large framework lit up. It altered into a twin door. Lance held up two fingers,

"Two for Lance, zip for Keith." Keith didn't say anything, but he had noticeably swiped the wall faster. And then Lance sped up, and then Keith, and then Lance- until they both were practically scrubbing the wall over the most possible area.

Coran raised an eyebrow. "Well, I suppose it's working." "Ha, found one!" Keith cried out from thirty steps afar. Lance grumbled to himself, but then smiled.

"Oh yeah? I got another one!"

Shiro walked up to the discovered and simultaneously abandoned doors. "You guys do know you're supposed to... check them out?"

---

Pidge reached the end of the hallway, which had all but a vent to it. He groaned, but not wanting to retrace his steps, he cut a hole into the vent with his bayard and kicked it in. Smirking, he crawled inside. It was fairly easy to navigate through, and there weren't many ventilation fans, but soon he began to hear a thumping noise.

"What the... Shiro? Allura?" Pidge turned his mic back on.

"Yes Pidge?" Allura's voice came first.

"I've crawled into the vents and I'm hearing some sort of weird banging noise. I'm gonna check it out, ok?"

"Whoa there Pidge." Lance smiled over the mics. "Don't just walk in like that." Pidge pretended to gag from the joke but couldn't suppress a laugh.

"I am so killing you when I come back up." Pidge shuffled closer and closer to the noises. It was just around the corner. But when he peeked from around the wall, his mouth slacked open. It was one of those grotesque flesh lumps, but it was moving. It was "eating" at one of the fans, spewing acid from its mouth. It turned to Pidge and hissed.

"WaAH!" He arched his back instinctively but it hit the roof of the vents. Never has he felt so claustrophobic. The lump began to slither its way toward Pidge and he grunted as he slashed the lump in half with his bayard. The two lumps squished back together hissing.

"How does this thing even have vocal cords?!" Pidge scrambled back to the first vent, shrieking.

"Pidge? Are you okay? Have you found anybody?" Shiro's voice came on this time.

"There is a lump of flesh in the vents, alive! It's chasing me and trying to EAT ME." Pidge gave a shout as the lump shot a part of itself as Pidge. It missed though, and just splattered against the wall beside him. He gasped once he came back into the original hallway and he grunted out of the vent, sprinting back to the trash chute without hesitation.

"That thing was- how is it ALIVE?"

"Pidge, come back into the chute! We've found our rope in a new storage unit in the stairs. Hurry." Pidge nodded and barged back into the dark room.

He called out. "Hey? I'm back in here. Throw down the ro-whoa-... What. Is. That." The large lump of flesh from before was now twitching with visible veins pulsing through the skins. Pidge shivered.

"How... Oh god, hurry please!" Pidge fumbled out the revolver Lance had given him and fired three shots into the blob. It pushed back at his elbows and jolted his shoulder, and the noise ringed in his ears. But all the blob did was absorb them. Right then, a rope fell down from the hatch.

"Pidge? Come on!" A voice echoed from the top.

He ran and leaped onto the rope, climbing it. But the fleshy form stretched out and wrapped itself around Pidge's foot, making him squeal.

"Auugh! It's so gross, pull me out pull me out-" Shiro's firm hands gripped Pidge's, but he couldn't break off the sludge's hold. Everybody began pulling from behind Shiro.

"Pidge, hold on!" Lance got up and aimed his bayard at the part that enveloped Pidge's foot.

"I can FEEL it on my skin! Are you sure the force field is on?!" He panicked. Lance blasted three laser beams onto the disgusting strain of the creature. It peeled back from where Lance shot it and Pidge lurched forward, landing on everyone. Shiro kicked the hatch close.

"Oh god, gross gross." Pidge shuddered, ripping his gas mask off. "I know this was to find prisoners and stuff, but I found nothing, heard nothing- zip. Can we get out of here please?"

"Pidge calm down. You're good now, you're good." Shiro hugged him. Allura looked despondent.

"Oh, this is my fault! I am so sorry I sent you down there. We should have been more prepared but-"

"No, it's okay. It was for the right reasons. Nobody would've thought there would be a live flesh lump down there. Um... let's move onto the city?" Allura looked concerned.

"Pidge, are you sure? The city will not be better off with creatures. Possibly worse."

Pidge held up his hands, shaking. "Nono I'm good. Really. It was just the... atmosphere of it all. You know, cramped vents and the stench I can handle. But the feeling of it touching me? Ugh!" Pidge shivered again. "I just don't like slimy contact like that and stuff." Shiro nodded, making a mental note.

"It's okay, don't worry. I would've been squeamish too. Come on, let's go back up." Shiro offered a hand, which Pidge gladly took.

"Thanks. Let's just get out of here." Pidge could still feel the lump coiled around his ankle, he felt unclean at the place. "When I take a shower, I'm going to scrub that place until it bleeds."

And with that, nobody searched the place anymore. Allura agreed to move on to the city and maybe come back to check again when they were better equipped. As everyone boarded the ship once more, Lance nudged Pidge softly.

"You sure you're alright?"

It felt like actual human skin. Dead.

"Yeah I'm fine. I just hated the feeling."

Which it most likely was. Millions of dead. Flesh.

"Okay, because I remember having a few cousins back at home and one of them had a sensory issue. Basically, she hated the feeling of anything soft or squishy. It made her scream bloody murder every time." Lance chuckled. Pidge chuckled too. He looked up at him and smiled. "Thanks."

"No problem."

"I've been pouring out a lot of these thanks recently now, huh?"

"Yeah, I kind of noticed."

"Alright everyone, let's move." Shiro took his seat at the head of the five. Their seats were hard to miss, they were color coded like everything else, all placed in a circle facing the large window at front. They elevated from the ground as Allura pressed her hands against the central pedestals. Was that worth the trip? Pidge thought to himself. He jumbled through his bag, lifting out a bunch of papers and journals. He gave a thin smile. Maybe.

---

"Allura? Do you know what the Galra has been doing, you know, 5,000 years ago?" Pidge piped up. She seemed to tense from the question.

"I... yes."

"Because I found these journal entries from the lab there, and they talk about some sort of 'Great Experiment' or 'Grand Plan'. Care to... explain?"

Allura nodded, grabbing the attention and ears of everyone.

"They have been doing experiments such as these on people from the moment they began. Those who found out, were silenced. I think one of the direct and immediate causes of Zarkon coming to attack us was that somebody from our team tried to get the word out."

"Wait, they've been doing these experiments for 5,000 years? T-that's- horrible." Hunk gulped. "So many people..."

"It only gets worse from there. They've been planning to take over Earth and eventually space, but for that Zarkon would need extensive amounts of Alteanium. Zarkon is... apparently immortal as of now. Though I'm not sure how. But I know he'd want to see the inhabitants of Earth suffer first. His plan was and still is to divide them. He developed these monsters underground for generations. After so many years of reproducing them, they are truly just aliens now." Allura tapped her chin .

"Wow..." Lance blew.

"They do not have feelings, and lost all human traits. They are without a soul, their quintessence is peculiarly dark, and their purpose is to spread onto the world and decay it."

"But why? Why make so many different species for them when he could've just made a few? Two types of zombies are enough." Pidge prompted.

"To confuse and terrorize people. It'd be much harder to keep track of such diverse animals, each with different strengths and weaknesses. They have been creating these creatures for 5,000 years, and I estimate they only managed for 100 species to live. It's hard, finding the means to continue the dead, so they did it in all kinds of forms. But honestly? I think Zarkon just did it for his pleasure."

Everybody digested this information slowly.

"Wait so are the Galra themselves a zombie species they created?" Lance asked. "Cause, I'm pretty sure regular humans don't have purple skin. I saw a picture in one of the cabinets back in the lab, of some Galran soldiers. Their ears looked kinda cute, but jeez- the rest of 'em?"

"They modified their DNA as the most superior they could without destabilizing the gene chains, but they are not zombies. They still have a mind and soul, and a personality. They also did it for security purposes. Only those with Galra DNA can go through doors, access technology and so on."

"I guess I can understand why, but thousands of years just for all of this? Generations can go by quickly you know." Pidge said.

"Yes, but like I said. Very, very difficult to succeed in creating such a thing. The Galra are usually thorough. At least the commanders are. Zarkon is a bit more hot-headed, which will come to our advantage. I don't know the exact number of aliens he developed underground, but for it to be global, it must be a lot."

"So what's the plan once we get into the city?" Shiro asked.

"I want you all to get used to the horrors of the Galra. Like Pidge has here." She patted him, consoling.

"It's terrible, I know, but we must get used to these sort of things. In the city there will be plenty of those zombies. Part of the paladin's creed is to help those in trouble, to protect the people. You must do so at any cost. After we sweep the city, we'll take the ship and take the fight to Zarkon."

"Good plan. I feel like sitting ducks if we just stay in one location." Shiro replied. "After getting used to your bayards, we'll have to bond as a team, make our connection stronger. For the bayard become stronger when the paladin's have a better connection with each other, sometimes unlocking new abilities."

Pidge sighed. "Allura, have I ever mentioned your technology is heavenly?

---

The sound of everyone's shoes trudging into the city rolled off the buildings. The city for the most part was silent, and still intact. Only the buildings that got heated from the bomb's radiation looked like something out of a Picasso painting. Coran left the coordinates for the ship on everyone's mic and did his best to camouflage the ship with its surroundings.

"It's way too quiet for a city going through the apocalypse." Lance said.

"But then again, it's a city going through the apocalypse." Hunk shrugged. Lance nodded.

"Maybe we can get some more bullets or guns? There are tons of shops around this corner." Pidge led, pointing right.

"I like the way you think Pidgeon." Lance smirked.

"Don't call me that."

Allura called out, "I don't think we should split up just yet, that didn't go so well last time. Look around the stores for supplies once more, but this time in a group. Okay?" They all gave an affirmative nod and began to walk. They stopped in front of a hardware store.

"Hey, there's a TV inside. Maybe we can find out what's going on through the news?" Hunk looked at the row of TV in the electronic section.

"Cool, maybe we can find a cartoon or something." Lance gibed.

"Lance." Keith said, irritated.

"What? I'm joking, yeesh."

Hunk tried turning it on. "No power." Then he went to a shelf and came running back with a screwdriver. Opening the insides of the TV he said, "Gimme a moment." Allura and Coran searched around the food section, grabbing the ones that might last the longest. Lance tried to find clips that matched Hunk's gun and Keith rummaged through the knives drawer. Pidge sat down while Hunk worked, and took out a dirty journal.

"Might as well pass the time." He said quietly and flipped through the pages. One entry caught his attention.

February 12

Zarkon has contacted our base to initiate phase one of the Grand Plan. This included collecting all of the prisoners and rounding them up onto our fleet. They'll be deported to the following locations: Balmera, South Antoria. Kresinto, Central Asia. Chatorpan, East Asia, and North Africa. This is where our top bases are located. He also instructed to bring all of our most important equipment, but one is to stay to activate the bomb. That is me. I will be sacrificing my life for the empire, the highest honor. Once everyone is shipped off, I will detonate. The city nearby is to get infected from the chemical explosion. In our base, we have manufactured 3 different types of Stingers.

-The Fungi Stinger: It is the leanest of them all and has a large mushroom on it's head. It can camouflage well, but cannot see. It only can click for rapid movement, and listen. Hearing is moderate. It is categorized into "Stinger", for the way it injects its DNA.


This was the easiest model of the Stinger to create so almost all the other Galran bases accomplished this feat.

-The Flesh Stinger: It was made in an accident by my coworker, a blob-like mass completely made out of grouped flesh and remains. It developed in the trash, and I was fairly amused by it. It will most likely cause the dead humans to gather up together until one. They can see through heat. They are categorized into "Stinger" for the way it injects its DNA, but the syringe is enveloped inside all of that mass so it will probably only influence those who were near the explosion radius. A bit useless, but still lethal as it absorbs live beings to grow.


-The Porcupine Stinger: We managed to alter the human teeth so that it sticks out of the upper and lower lip. Sometimes the teeth wildly deforms and mutates, making them spring out uncontrollably out of the face. Hence the name, Porcupine. ... I'm not the one who names these things. They inject using the teeth, therefore categorized into Stinger. They cannot see and cannot hear, but rather feel vibrations. They also developed a long tail that can also inject DNA like a syringe. This Porcupine was the reason why we all began to call the mindless experiments "Stingers" actually. It was a lot better than my boss's suggestion as "Vampires". I didn't like that name, so I used this one as an excuse to call it "Stinger". Thank Zarkon. We were too busy supervising the humans to continue the creation of Stingers lately. This has been similar to the other Galran bases. Because of the Stinger's bloodthirsty trait, we like to throw them in the arena for entertainment with humans. Zarkon approved of it when he saw some of his bases perform the act, and did the same in his ship.


Pidge's fingers trembled. This was the most vital information he got out of any of these papers. He folded it neatly and made a note to tell the others once Hunk finished fixing the TV. As if on cue, Hunk cried out.

"Finally, guys! Come, it's on." A news channel buzzed onto the screen, slightly charred from static- but still audible. Hunk turned up the sound so everyone could hear.

"...And coming to you live from Jack is the heart of Asia. One of the largest Galran base there has exploded, spreading mass disease amongst the large population. And two other bases in Antoria has done the same. The one in the west however was lucky, the city evacuated swiftly and into government bunkers."

"Hey that's our area!" Lance came closer to the TV and sat down with Pidge.

"The suspected and unknown CEO of Galra Co. will not respond to any questions. Not even his commanders. Are we facing total world destruction? Back to you Nancy."

"Thank you, I'm coming live with more news from the action. Many groups of people quickly made local settlements and villages but have not permitted others in. As you can see, those are one of the many different camps. This has so far only happened in Asia and Antoria, but we suspect that more is to come. Scientists are working on where all of these zombies have appeared, but they suspect they were manufactured from underground units of black labs. So please, be careful out there. There are many different kinds of them, we have documented around 20 so far, so keep your ears open for information. Look! There's one over there."

The camera turned and zoomed towards one alien outside the walls of the settlement. He was very tall, but still had a few human features- like two legs, two arms, hands and feet and an almost normal looking head. If you consider it half falling apart normal. The team cringed from so much red on its body.

"20 different types of those?" Pidge bit his lip. The skin looked rocky and was a lime green. He had angry yellow eyes and his four-fingered fist was curled up, shaking at the woman and camera and yelling incomprehensible noises. The women screamed, running away as the alien began to run to the camera man. The camera dropped, faced the sky. Which became all but a static screen. Soon, a "technical difficulties" screen came on.

Everyone stared at the TV for a moment, before Pidge spoke up.

"They released the that much already?"

Allura's eyes looked frayed. "I'm afraid so. From my coordinates from before, I take it that this is Antoria?"

"Yes, but the west side. I don't know if they disengaged any aliens here but-" Shiro got cut off.

"They haven't. Look. Here's a journal entry I got from that lab before. See, it talks about the three type of 'Stinger' DNA they unleashed into this city. I'd say it settled by now." Pidge opened up the journal to the date and showed it. "Apparently, these two are the most common in the world, so we'll be seeing it again and again.

"You found this?" Shiro asked as the rest of the team read the entry. "This will come in very handy."

"I'm mostly concerned for the Stinger that can camouflage, is anyone else worried about that?" Hunk gulped and flicked off the TV. They all stood up and began to walk out of the store.

"Everyone, stay steady. It's quiet right now, but keep your bayards on." Shiro commanded.

"Remember that many of them are attracted to noise and vibration. Keep silent, and tread light- we should be okay then." Allura added. Everyone nodded and began to make their way to the airport.

---

Click, click, click, click, urrrrrrrrr.

"What the heck was that?!" Hunk held onto his bayard tighter. They were halfway to the airport when a strange series of articulation came up.

Pidge looked at the paper again. "That must be the.. Fungi Stinger. They click to hear or see where we are. If we move slowly and don't make any noise, we're good."

"I wished we had a place where we could store all this information with us on the run." Keith said. "There's around a hundred of these across the world- how can we remember all of that?"

"Oh, don't worry, I got this." Coran gave a thumbs up. "I can remember any scrap of information that comes my way. For example, the great migration of the-" Hunk plopped his finger into Coran's muffled lips.
"Yes, okay thank you for that- but remember the Stingers? T-they could be anywhere now?"

Click, click, click...

The gang turned around to the noise. From an alleyway in between two department stores, a hideous Stinger walked in. It's limbs looked like they were alive with hollow electricity- but nothing more. The thing's head jerked up and down, it seemed like it was listening to some sick beats. As said in the journal, it had fungi sprouting all over the thing's eyes, brain and ears. Some parts were visible from the nose cavities, and there were two long fangs bearing down on it's teeth. The skin was a greenish yellow, but it still had some clothing on it. Shiro swallowed and everybody else tried to stifle their gags. Step by step, they slowly moved backwards. Lance's leg bumped against the front of an abandoned car and it suddenly honked hysterically.

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep! Everyone shouted from the noise as Lance yelled, "Run!"

The Fungi Stinger now flailed its arms wildly in the direction of the noise. It gave an inhumane gargle and it tried to slash it's mouth aimlessly forward. The seven sprinted toward the airport, panting.

"What the heck Lance!" Keith voice grated.

"How was I supposed to know the car was so damn sensitive?!" Lance screeched over the noise of more and more clicking. The entire neighborhood had awoken, but were thankfully going to the car and not them.

"It's NO one's fault, let's just make it around that corner." Shiro managed to remain a calm status despite running for his life. They all braked at the corner, and peered back. An entire crowd of clicking Stingers gathered around car, bashing it into dents. They all caught their breath, adrenaline running out of their system.

Allura began. "It's alright paladins, we're almost to the heart of the city. Surely there'll be a few people who didn't make it to the evacuation. See these Stingers as only an obstacle."

Pidge sulked. "I know they're dead already but... still." He looked back behind him. Shiro waved the team over. "Come on, this way." After that slight hindrance they were able to see downtown, but it was still a long distance away and it was beginning to get dark. Hunk's stomach growled.

"Ooh, I knew I should've baked more cookies." He whimpered. "Do any of you have snacks?"

"I'm sorry Hunk, but we'll have to skip dinner for tonight. We'll try searching for some food in the morning, or if we can, go back to where the ship is hidden." Allura stated. Hunk nodded sadly.

"How about we stay up there? On the roof of that apartment?" Keith pointed to a thin building. Shiro shrugged.

"So long as there's no Stingers in there, sure." Inside, Hunk tried the elevator- but it was off, of course. He slumped and began to walk up the long flight of stairs to the top. Once there, they all viewed the city in a long quiet.

"It's so weird. Seeing the city all dark and quiet like this." Lance whispered, chin resting in his arms. Hunk nodded.

"Well, almost quiet." Hunk added after hearing a series of groans and clicks far down below. "You good buddy?"

"Yeah, it's just, I was so startled by the car alarm that I didn't even manage to shoot them. I felt like, I didn't want to even though they're dead." Hunk nodded sympathetically.

"Don't worry, it's cause we're all new at this." Hunk yawned. "Come on Lance, might as well get used to the roof. 'Night."

"Night Hunk." Lance smiled and lay down, his hands folded behind his neck. They all stayed silent for the morning to come, but before Lance could get a moment's shuteye, he spotted something in the sky.

"Hey... Hunk? Is that a meteor? Or shooting star?" He mumbled. "Hm?" Hunk stretched.

"Oh, that's just a giant ship headed for us..." He bolted. "Ohmygodguys there's a GIANT SHIP HEADED FOR US." Hunk screamed, waking everyone up. "Oh no." Coran stared. "It's a Galran ship. It's one of Zarkon's commander's. We've got to get out of here- now!"

Pidge rubbed his eyes. "Wha? How did they find us?"

"No time to think about that- it's going to crash." Shiro grabbed everyone and ducked to cover them.

The ship dove into the city, but didn't crash. Instead, it screeched right before it could touch the ground- and mechanical wheels thrust forward. It landed, but the engines roaring caused quite the commotion. All the Stingers shook alive, skin becoming visible, and began to head toward the large ship. "Look, all of the Stingers are crowding there."

"Come on we've got to go down. Maybe the Stingers will buy us some time- move!" Shiro clapped and everybody scrambled to get up and down the stairs. Keith hopped on the railings to slide down.

"How did they even know that we were planning to stop them? Can they read minds?" Keith grunted as he kicked the door open.

"No, but Zarkon has this witch named Haggar-" Allura tried to yell out.

"Witches and aliens and zombies, oh MY!" Hunk wailed, forming his bayard. Pidge hurried behind and looked back.

"Guys! I can see troops coming our way, we need to get back to our ship, and we need it NOW!" They all sprinted until they were back at the ship and out of breath.

Everyone came dashing in, but nearly fell when he saw that the ship was completely blocked by a horde of Stingers.

Coran gasped. "It's the Porcupine Stingers!"

"Seriously, who names these things." Lance aimed with his gun, but before he could shoot a whole array of purple beams began to fire all around them. A couple hit the paladins, but it didn't hurt or move them too much, it only made the forcefield around them visible for a second before disappearing into its invisible state. A few of the beams struck down some of the Porcupine Stingers.

"Their guns are loud, are there any Fungi Stingers nearby? They hear well, I think." Keith asked, trying to recall

"Don't think so. But the horde of Porcupine can too. They see through vibrations, and they're getting a ton of that from the Galran troops." Coran answered.

Shiro ordered, "Okay Hunk, Allura and Coran, we'll stay here and hold the Galra off. You guys try to clear the Stingers off. Once they're gone we can get to safety, now go!" Allura looked upset, but obeyed and ran off with Coran and Hunk. The rest of the four ran straight into the far off troops.

"Shiro, you don't have a bayard!" Pidge cried out before zapping one advancing Galran drone.

"I know." Shiro's hands fisted, ready to fight. Before he could throw out a punch however, his right cyborg arm began to glow a hot purple. It crackled with energy, making Shiro howl and bend down, holding his wrist. Muffled voices range through his head. Shiro's fingers trembled, fighting against the cyborg arm. With clench of his fist, the powerful electricity spackled out.

Lance shot down a couple drones and Keith did handy work with his sword. Pidge fried a drone and sliced its knees, kicking them down. But there was more coming. Shiro could make out an entire army behind and the commander wouldn't be far. They couldn't possibly fend them all off much longer... Shiro closed his eyes, shaking.

He opened them. With a cry he got up and lunged toward the nearest group of drones. Slice. A drone's head fell off. Chop. Another lost his arm and fell to the ground in a firework. Slash.. Shiro's hot fingertips grazed the the soldier bottom to top, ending with his fist in the soldiers jaw. From the corner of his eye he saw another drone creep up behind Lance, ready to butt him in the neck with its gun. Shiro let out a roar and ran up behind it. He pounded his fist through the chest of the drone. It gave a small burst of fire, scattering bits of metal in the air.

His arm began to lose its purple glow and it deactivated back to normal. He heard the snarls and gnashes of the Porcupine behind them, but he knew they were focused on the drones now. They were safe for now. A break.

Pidge looked bewildered. "Shiro! Where did you learn to fight like that?" Shiro looked down tentatively at his right arm, flexing it.

"No idea." He murmured.

Lance came up gawking. "Whoa... Shiro you saved me, that was freaking awesome!" Keith stopped Lance and pointed back to the jets.

"We better get to the ship while we can. They're probably waiting for us." Shiro nodded, and the four began to sprint back.

---

"Hunk look out!" Allura cried. Hunk swerved his machine gun and blasted away at the Flesh Stingers. The Porcupines were taken care of by the drones, but these things managed to stick onto the ship. They were huddled in front of the door and sprang at them when it opened. Hunk was sweating heavily by now. His bayard was amazing, but it was hard to navigate at times due to its weight. He shot multiple beams of lasers. They swerved and connected, obliterating the lumps. He deactivated the bayard and panted. "Man, I feel bad for Pidge."

"There they are!" Coran pointed to the distance. "Come on, we've got to get inside." He leaped inside and helped Allura on. Everyone boarded and sat down at their respectable seats. Allura pressed her hands against some sort of podium that controlled the entire vehicle.

"Where are we going to? We should go to one of those places in the journal!" Pidge spoke into the mic and over the noise outside.

"Ah yes, let's go to Kresinto, Central Asia then! We might meet some friendly settlements there, and it is the most populated." Coran answered. "Now let's get out of here before the ship gets us."

"Paladins, part of your dashboard helps to defend the ship though these bots and to steer the ship. Take your controls now." Allura ordered. The paladins grabbed onto the wheels in front of their seats. They aired higher.

"Oh god." Hunk gulped, looking down and putting his seatbelt firmly on.

"Come on Hunk, we've done the simulators before right?" Lance jostled the stick firmly.

"Need I remind you how they all ended?"

"Nope!" Lance laughed, shooting a few beams from his flying bot before asking "Hey, Shiro we all headed to Kresinto now?"

He gave an affirmative.

"It's weird... the ship isn't following us." Keith turned back to the Galra troops, standing in place. Even the ship refrained from shooting.

"Who cares just go!" Pidge pressed harder onto the pedal.

The large ship zoomed off. It didn't take long for the crazed scene at the city to fade away. Pidge voiced that they should go back to the city to scan it for survivors one more time, but all vetoed the idea. It was too near the Galra, and Coran hasn't tested the defense and offense mechanisms yet. It surprised everyone how quickly they arrived to Kresinto, but a bigger surprise waited for them nearing the end of the ride.

"Shit, we're out of fuel."

Chapter Text

"Zarkon, the paladins have used the their ship to escape. Shall we pursue them?" Commander Sendak contacted Zarkon with a salute and request. Zarkon seemed to contemplate the idea.

"No. I have a different approach in mind."

---

"Keith, language." Shiro tutted.

"Language? We are out of FUEL!" Allura tried to slow down the aircraft but it was too late. They were nose diving down now. 

"Coran put up the particle barrier!" Allura shouted and she typed onto the podium to preserve power. Even from inside the thick barriers, they could hear the wind scraping at the hull. "But we haven't even tested it out yet!" Coran protested, but doing so anyway. A large forcefield sputtered up around the ship. "It's very weak Allura I-"

"Everyone, hold on!" Shiro yelled. The ship crashed.

---

They all groaned. Allura and Coran were both on the floor, whilst the five paladins leaned against their seatbelts. A red light flared softly, but made no sound. Coran wheezed, lifting himself up using the podium. With a wobbly voice,

"Systems are offline." Then he slumped back down, rubbing his head.
It a large impact, but the trees in the forest they landed in dulled the crash a little, and the force field helped immensely. The force field automatically went down. Now, the ship was laying on its side surrounded by peals of fallen trees. Smoke rose from the area.
"My chest hurts." Lance unbuckled the tight seatbelt that restrained him from falling. "Hunk?" Lance stood up, but his feet slipped and he fell on his side. Damn gravity.
"I'm good thanks." Hunk rose out of a tumbling pile of debri. "Uh oh, that's not good." One by one, everyone stood up rubbing their bruises. Coran looked around him, examining the damage.
"Oh... this might take a while to fix. And it'll be even harder when the ship is on its side. Allura? Could you kindly right it?" Coran asked. Allura nodded and pressed her hands against the podium and the ship creaked loudly. A bear waking up from hibernation, the husk groaned. Pidge just stood up on the side of his chair.
"Wait no, wait- OOF!" The ship corrected itself and everybody shifted right. Pidge fell onto the ground. He angled his glasses, making sure there were no cracks.

"Coran? How long till you can fix this thing?"
"Hmm... give me four hours top and it should be running smoother than an Olympic athlete!" Coran ran off to a supply closet. Lance snorted.
"Olympics? Man you're old." Coran gave an high sound of disagreement.
"Okay everyone. We're here in Kresinto.. so we might as well try to search the city for supplies." Shiro walked off to the doors.
"Because that went so well last time. Allura? You coming?" Lance asked. "You know you want to." He winked. Allura dusted her clothes off and began clacking away at an intractable screen.
"Oh well, I am so, so terribly sorry but I'll have to stay here and help Coran. You all go on ahead and have fun. Contact us if there's any trouble."
She smiled. "My sarcasm detector went off the charts, but don't worry Allura. I forgive you." Lance shot finger guns at her. Allura seemed confused at the gesture, which was now getting dragged away by Shiro.
Shiro shook his head, scolding.

---

February 29

We finished evacuating the prisoners. Section F9 was sent to Gridale, G2 to Kresinto, Central Asia and B4 to Chatorpan, East Asia. We only have a few left we want to finish experiments on. Haggar suggested doing one of her own to our top fighter for the arenas. Said she might even bring him onto Zarkon's ship in the future.

Pidge was disappointed at the short length, but kept it nevertheless. He stuffed it back into his bag pocket once Shiro came out with Lance.

"Everybody's here. Good. I can see the city from the ledge we're on- but it'll be a hike for us to reach it. Remember Allura's words. Our priority is to find survivors, and make peaceful negotiations with them. Let's go." They all hopped off the thin ledge, sliding down into a dirt path back to the city.

---

They arrived at the gates of the city. Yes, the city had gates installed.

"What the heck?" Lance walked cautiously up to it. "Doesn't look like anybody's home."
"How did they barricade an entire city already? The world found out, what two days ago?" Pidge rubbed the metal works covering the bars. "It's not too shabby either."
"It's alright. This means that there ARE people inside the city. We just... ah, need to get their attention." Shiro went to the lock of the gates. "Hello? Is anybody listening? We are the paladins of Voltron, we mean no harm." Silence.
"Hm." Shiro tried to think of another plan. Keith brushed past.
"Why don't we just, you know, use our bayards?" Keith's sword glowed up and melted the lock into pieces. He smiled and the sword went back to normal swiftly. He turned to see everyone staring at him.
"What?"
"You can't just, you DON'T just!" Hunk pulled his headband over his eyes.
"Great work Keith. Now how are we going to get on friendly terms with them?" Lance jutted out his jaw. Keith frowned.
"I just opened the gates what's the big deal? Obviously nobody was going to come here and talk."
"I suppose the big deal is that now they can charge us with treason and for damaging their property. Well, not charge technically since I don't think the police is active right now... but they can point that out to us negatively." Pidge shrugged.
Keith looked away and kicked open the gates. "Whatever. It doesn't look like anyone's here anyway-"
"An entire city Keithy-boy, they can be anywhere!" Lance snapped.
"Shut up and go in." He walked into the city. They all looked at each other, and began to walk inside too, with Shiro the most worried.

---

"Keith. Next time, you got to keep control over your... instincts like that. Okay?" Shiro told Keith softly. He breathed out heavily before saying,
"Sorry. I'll talk it with you before I do anything next time." Shiro smiled.
"Oh my GOD!" Lance's voice could be heard inside one store whose title was rubbed away. The team ran to the sound.
"What, what is it?"
"They have bathworks!" Lance held up a large basket of lotion, soaps, conditioner and the such. Everybody groaned.
"Only YOU would find that a worthy scavenging item." Pidge laughed.
"Drop them, they'll only take up space." Keith crossed his arms.
"Um, no Mr. IWouldMeltAPadlockWheneverIFeelLikeIt. Besides, you don't know what you're missing out on. The showers in our bedrooms have NOTHING. Don't come back begging for soap later on." Lance emptied the contents into his pockets. When he ran out of space, he ran out to look for a bag. "Hey Hunk follow me! We can get bags for everyone!" Hunk nodded and left.
"Don't worry, you'll get used to it." Pidge assured Keith, who was currently sulking near the door entry.
"I can't understand how he does NOT take this seriously." Keith rubbed his eyes together furiously.
"Like I said, you'll get used to it. Besides, Hunk is right about one thing, Lance can control himself when he wants to. He just... never wants to." Pidge snorted, kicking a can on the ground.
"... Hey Pidge?"
"Hm?"
"I... might need some leverage to keep him in line. What is the most embarrassing thing you saw Lance do?" Pidge rose his eyebrows to the sky.
"Oh ho! I like where this is going."

---

Lance and Hunk came running back with one of their own bags. "Shiro Keith, catch!" Shiro found in his hands a tight black satchel. He smiled a thanks. Keith caught a bulky, red back bag, which he slid over his shoulders.

"Thanks." He muttered.
"Now to find some survivors. How can we help them if our own two hands are full?" Shiro agreed.
They were able to find more bullets and water bottles hidden in stubborn drawers or shattered cars along the way until they heard an all too familiar noise.

Click, Click- Cli-i-i-i-i-i-i-ck." A groaning dragged out across the pavement. Hunk eeped.

"Oh boy, not again."
"It's alright. If they try to bite you the force field should keep the blood from being injected." Shiro said.
"What do you mean by should?" Hunk gulped.
"Shiro means that if you just stay still and let a million Stingers eat at you, then it will most likely fall down. Calm down Hunk! These force fields are phenomenal! Even if they do allow... an extraordinary sense of touch." Pidge ended nervously.
"Here they come." Keith noticed a bunch of Stingers clicking their way closer. The mushroom infested heads spazzed out wildly, their arms seeming to glitch into dislocating angles. Lance muttered something under his breath, when one Stinger shrieked, running towards them.
"Wah!" Lance shot the head of the Stinger with no hesitation, a beam of bright blue whizzing into its eyes. It exploded into a confetti of mushroom plates and brownish blood. Some splattered onto Hunk. It felt warm and he could feel it run down his arm. Hunk shuddered,
"Eugh! You're right Pidge. Doesn't this thing have some sort of numbing setting?" He wiped it off quickly, pretending it was warm spaghetti sauce. Attracted to the quick burst from the shot of the laser gun, more made their way closer. The louder they clicked the faster the others ran in. They acted as a herd. Cycling over until there was about 100 Stingers surrounding the five.
"You ready guys?" Shiro's right hand gleamed purple. In no more than one second's moment, everyone's bayard shone brightly.

They responded in a loud, "Yeah!"

---

Bodies littered the ground. It was only a 100 before, but now it seemed like an eternity of fighting. Pidge twirled between the Stingers silently, ripping their necks out with an assassin's worthy cut of his bayard.

"For once being small pays!" Pidge grunted, dodging an incoming mess of nails and mushrooms. Hunk spun around shooting blindly while yelling. His gun beamed out twenty shots at once, tumbling a wall of bodies circled around him. He didn't feel too comfortable, but he soldiered on. Lance's gun was shooting without a second in between each beat. Never having to reload, Lance found himself smirking.

"Man! This bayard is sweet. You never have to reload, it's like one of those cheap video games!" Keith could be found razing by multiple Stingers wildly with his sword, splashing their oozy ichor everywhere on the ground.
Shiro dealt with any Stinger that tried to sink its fangs into any of his paladin's necks. They had the force field yes, while he didn't, but that didn't prevent him from squelching holes into the disfigured heads. The mushroom roasted, grilling from Shiro's hand alone. The scent wafted towards Hunk, who froze.
"Is that... bruschetta I smell? Oh no, maybe the more delectable tingle of the a sauteed mushroom perfectly dried-"
"Hunk." Shiro grunted, beating down one Stinger that almost touched Hunk. He snapped out of his lenient trance and shook his head.
"Right, right sorry. Food's a happy place y'know?"
Then out of nowhere, a sharp blam rang out from nearby. One Stinger crumpled down. Not from Shiro's hand marks, Keith's beheading, Pidge's sleek cuts, Hunk's multiple gaping holes, or Lance's swift shot. There was a bullet embedded in the Stinger's mushroom head, smoke slowly lifting from the wound. The five seemed to glance at each other, time freezing. Then they went back to finishing off the rest of the Stingers as quickly as they could. Shiro stomped down the last Stinger.
"Well done guys, the horde's taken care of. Now..." Shiro glanced at the direction of the sound. "You guys heard that..."
A sudden rustling behind a nearby car made everyone freeze again. "Hello? We know you're there." Shiro tentatively reached toward the car.

"We're not going to hurt you." Lance soothed. "Just come on out, we promise alright?" Then he sent a warning glare toward Keith's way, who glared back. A small figure slowly crept out behind the car. It was a boy. He had dark brown hair with red running through it (could just be blood) and his bangs draped over his eyebrows in such a way that it made him look continuously angry. He had splotches of orange paint on his skin, and he was barely higher than a knee. "I am Klaizap, bravest of our warriors!" He charged out proclaiming. "The Clickers have somehow passed the city gates, and have forced us to barricade ourselves at the edge of the city! We are the Arusians." Then the boy pointed his gun towards them. "And you are..?" Keith immediately got in front with his bayard flashing. "Put down your weapon and then we'll answer." He said grimly. Shiro gave a warning cough. Keith groaned and put back his bayard. "Dude." Lance jut in. "He is literally the size of our calves." "Doesn't mean we should take any chances." Keith deadpanned. "Gee, and here I was hoping we could knit him a sweater." Lance sighed, making Keith bristle. Shiro continued. "We are the paladins of Voltron, we're here to help." Klaizap ranted on in his strange speech. "Ah, you fight well then! Not too long ago, soldiers came from the sky and took our parents and families away to a safer place. All that remains in our village is us kids, and our wise and noble leader. He is the only adult to survive." "How... did he survive?" "He hid inside a refrigerator." Klaizap answered with awe. Shiro refrained a smile. "I see. So, can we visit this town of yours?" Klaizap nodded. "Only if you paladins will clear out all the Clickers in the area leading back. I was sent to scavenge, but the Clickers here grew plenty. Can you clear the path for me to lead?" Lance snorted. "That's like, our job here. Don't worry about it." Lance smiled. Klaizap gave a loud "Hurrah!" And bounded off in the direction of his barricade.

---

There was a few clumps of these "clickers" here and there. While in the midst of the final rundown, Allura came in on the mic.
"Paladins? Coran has finished repairing the ship. What have you found?"
"Kind of- Umph! Busy, pretty lady, whoa!" Lance said in between dodges. He ducked beneath one clicker and shot directly to below its jaw. The head exploded, but Lance swooped out before any got in his hair. "Nope, nope, nope."
"Oh! You are in combat I see. Excellent! Remember to contact us for help when needed." Allura said nonchalantly.
"Allura, we found some survivors. They barricaded themselves to a far point in the city." Shiro informed.
Allura gasped. "What? Oh, great news! I'll track the coordinates through your mics. We'll see you soon!" She miked off. Soon, there wasn't a clicker in sight.
"Amazing, you cleared out the entire group." Klaizap gawked. "Come! Our barricade is this way!"

---

They were in front of a barbed wire fence, with two large gates at front. Maybe it used to be some sort of security check or stop, but now it was turned into an Arusian outpost, or that's at least what they called themselves. Clearly through the wires, you could see a bunch of sheds and even man made huts scattering about. Nearby was the edge of a forest and a steep ledge to a form of up leveled ground. Klaizap called out.
"I am Klaizap and I have returned! I brought warriors with me, open SESAME!" He waggled his arms strangely. Two other kids rushed out and pushed open the gates.
"Open sesame?" Hunk leaned in to whisper to Lance. Lance shrugged.
They all walked inside the long street of huts and stores. There were many kids running about, shocked at the sight of grown teens in their domain. It's only been a few days since they've been without adults, and already they've grown accustomed. Soon, the chief came bounding out of a somewhat metal tepee. He was taller than most of the kids only by an inch, and he appeared well fed.
"Welcome to our humble abode!" He grinned widely. "Klaizap has told me of your great skill. Thank you for bringing him back safely." He bowed.
"Er.. no problem." Shiro then asked. "So, about the soldiers who came in?" The chief knew where he was getting at. He lowered his voice.
"Well, you probably figured ah, the soldiers did not come to take them away to safety. If it were that, they'd take the kids first. I decided to not ah... tell them." The round man gulped.
"I know it sounds bad but I've instead led them to think this was all just a temporary 'game'. A deadly one in that." He fidgeted. "I felt like it was better that way." "You're going to have to sooner or later. Well, what color was the soldiers?" Shiro asked.
"Hm? Oh er... purple and black I think? Why?" Shiro breathed out heavily.
"It's the Galra. Galra Co. is behind this zombie infection."
"What?!" The man spit into Shiro's face. He wiped it away with a prosthetic hand. "The Galra? But how? They're just a secretive science industry!"
"I know, and right now their intentions aren't entirely clear to us. But we do know that he wants world domination, for reasons unmoral. That's why we're here. We're here to form an alliance with you and to overthrow Zarkon." Shiro grinned.
"Why of course! It's an honor, oh we must have a celebration then! All shall get their family back!" He huzzahed.
"Oh, and we will be having a few more people come. Is that alright?"
"Why yes, why?"
"Because they have a big ship and... it's coming right about now." Right behind them, the white aircraft landed on a patch of bare ground, spewing dust and wind everywhere. Lance was in awe.

"Whoa Shiro! How did you know, the timing was perfect-"
"I saw the shadow coming behind us."

---

Soon an assembly of the new alliance formed in an old temple. It wasn't too far off from the village, and the chief claimed it to be their "holy place". The leader's whiskers bounced as he spoke out loud to the crowd.
"Voltron here has given us and all mankind hope. Hope to be free from Zarkon's evil plans. I need not remind you what was done to our people when he came" The "Arusians" (the crowd was mostly consisted of abandoned kids) murmured in bad recollection. "But now all that will change! We shall help them in their quest by spreading peace to others. A toast to our newest, and first, alliance: Voltron!" They all gave a cheer "Hurrah!" and sipped on some foreign juice. In another part of the temple, Hunk suggested, "Hey, shouldn't we have some sort of cheer too? Like a team cheer that we do." Lance hummed.
"Yeah! Okay how about uh-" Then he said in a rap. "I say Vol and you say Tron, Vol." Lance waited expectantly.
Keith moved. "Uuh... Voltron?"
"...Nonono, the cheer include the instructions. I say Vol you say...?" Keith shrugged slowly.
"Vol..Tron?" Lance blinked.
"W-we'll work on it." He finished, drinking some of the herbal tea. A sudden shiver went though his body as Lance did his best not to spit out the juice. Gagging, he twitched toward Coran was was walking by.
"Coran, what is this?" Lance stuck his tongue out, trying to shake off the taste.
"This is nunvil, the ichor of the gods! Or so do the Arusians say."
"It tastes like hot dog water and feet."
"Yes! It surprisingly makes a wonderful hair tonic as well." Coran joyfully sprinkled some onto his mustache, which miraculously seemed to get bushier. Lance held in another gag, and gave a hefty sigh. Coran went back to Shiro as Keith and Hunk prodded Lance curiously. Keith poked Lance on the shoulder lightly. Lance fell to the ground.

"Try some nunvil, settles the stomach and brightens your smile." Coran offered.
"Remember back in the jets when we fled from the Galra?" Shiro asked.
"Yes, it wasn't too long ago." He smiled.
"Well, I noticed that the main ship wasn't coming after us when we did. I'm sure the others did too, don't you find that a little suspicious?" Coran waved.
"Oh, plenty of malfunctions can happen on a ship so large. I'm sure we just got lucky." Coran sipped more tea.
"But who knows when he'll attack again? I'm gonna do a perimeter check, just in case." Shiro walked out of the vast temple, and out the wooden doors.

---

"Commander Sendak, the sentries are in position around the Arusian village. We'll stop them from there." Haxus said.
"Luck is on our side. Look, there are no defenses and the doors are wide open. With all these Arusians coming in and out, it should be nothing for you to infiltrate." Sendak smiled.
"I created modifications to our suit and armor, it will be able to cloak me long enough to plant the bomb and steal away their technology." Haxus replied.
"I knew you would not disappoint me Haxus." And with that, Haxus smirked and turned invisible, with only the sounds of his running feet.

Pidge stared at the journal over and over. It was as clear as day.

Zarkon just added another change of plans. The women and children will be sent off to the vast land of Kresinto as planned, but all the workers men will be sent off to Gridale, South Antoria. He said that Haggar sensed a presence of strong energy there. Altean energy. We are to search for it there, and the other bases have volunteered to give in slaves to pitch in.

If only he had read this note sooner, he could've gone south before and find them! Pidge sighed, shaking off the guilt. He had been so close... Then he looked out to the parked jets. He nodded, making up his mind.

"Shiro?" He went up to him outside. "I need to talk to you." Shiro turned and listened. Distracted now, Haxus snuck by them, holding the bomb delicately in his arm, well hidden from sight. Meanwhile back inside the rickety temple, Lance stared at the herbal tea. He sighed.
"We might as well get used to these weird drinks and foods. Who knows how long it'll be until we get the world back to normal?" Hunk swished the drink in his hands.
"Yeah... if at all."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I mean Zarkon has been preparing and creating these monsters 'Stingers' for 5,000 years, imagine how long it might take to fix all that. If we survive." Lance drooped.
"Oh, right."

He looked down.
"Hey, what do you think are the chances of us finding a store with edible pizza in it?" Hunk smiled, thinking about it.
"Well, I only know one pizza place worth risking my life for. A place in Veradera beach with a pizza shack looking over the water... and the garlic knots, and my mom's hugs-" Lance's face scrunched up at what he was saying. He turned quickly and headed his way up the main stairs.
"I'm sorry, I think this nunvil's getting to me." He sniffed. His shoulders drooped while walking up the stairs. Coran looked by and noticed, concerned.

Shiro and Pidge both walked in with a serious expression, approaching Allura. "Oh Shiro, Pidge? How's the celebration?" She sipped some nunvil.
"Uh great... uhm, Allura? I-"
"Pidge, how about you tell me a little about yourself." She smiled. Pidge gave a confused "huh?".

"We need to connect as a team, not only with the other paladins but with us as well! We're family now." Pidge flinched at the word. Wanting to get it out of the way, he replied quickly.
"Well, I like peanut butter, and I like peanut butter cookies, but I hate peanuts. They're so dry. Also, I sweat a lot. I mean, in general, unrelated to the peanuts." Pidge stammered. Shiro suppressed a smile, before nudging Pidge.
"Right... right. Allura? Read this. I found it in the lab and..." He handed the lab journal over to Allura. "My dad was in the Association mission. I know he and my brother have been captured. It says right there that they'll be held captive in Gridale, South Antoria. We were just there! I've made up my mind. I'm... leaving Voltron."
Allura nearly dropped the cup and paper together. "What?" She held out her arms to Pidge. "Pidge you can't! You are one of five paladins. You have a sacred task to defend the world!"
"My first priority is to find my family!" Pidge stiffened. "I thought you of all people would understand. If you had a chance to get your father back, wouldn't you?" Allura bit back.
He winced. "I'm sorry. I should go tell everyone else." Then calling into the mic, "Hey guys? Everybody come here and meet me in the main west wing. I have something I need to tell you." Then he walked off in the direction of the point with Shiro following. Allura, though devastated, peered at the paper with a flicker of hope as well.
"Altean energy..." She read and held the paper close.

---

Lance was at the top of the temple. It had a tiny roof on top, granting access view to all of the people walking in and about. He sighed, hand against cheek.
"Mind if I join you?" Coran's voice entered the room. Lance shrugged.
"Hey Coran?" He started. "Do you think that Zarkon has already released those zombies into... say... Cuba?"
"I get it. You're worrying about your home. Don't worry Lance, I'm sure your family is-" Coran stopped himself. "I'm sure that they were escorted out. You saw how quick these Arusians were to making the fort after news spread about."
"Yeah... but I also-" Lance rubbed his head. "I just miss home. This whole mess isn't helping that either."
"I understand. I miss mine too." Coran nodded.
"I get that we're supposed to be brave paladins of Voltron now to stop Zarkon and everything, but honestly? I just... if I could go home I would." Lance groaned into his hand. "I miss the rain, and splashing puddles." Lance changed the topic, gazing into the sky. Coran hummed.
"Ah yes. Back when I remembered when the rain was all black and inky. It was a beautiful sight." He sighed. "...You seem very fond of your family. How many were they?"
"Oh, a lot." Lance chuckled.
"Must be fun."
"It was a mess back home, but...yeah." He trailed off.
"Tell me about them?" Coran offered. Lance smiled.

---

"You can't LEAVE." Keith shook his head at the blow.
"I have a jet ready from the Arusian village. I fixed and repaired it to go back to Gridale. " Pidge looked away.
"You're not leaving. If you leave, we're a broken team." Keith clashed.
"Well you can't tell me what to do!" Pidge exclaimed.
"Allura was right about the connection between the paladins and bayards. They chose us for a reason. And you're not the only one with a family. All of those Arusians have families, the people of this world have families. Everybody in the damn UNIVERSE has families." Keith yelled. Hunk intervened.
"Uh yeah, I have a family. I want to be with them, is that like, a thing that can happen?" Hunk asked.
"You want to leave too?" Allura asked astounded.
"Of course I do! Look, I know Voltron is super cool and the bayards are awesome but I never signed up for a lifetime or death for fighting zombies." Keith's eye twitched. He was obviously losing the battle between him and his temper.
"You are putting the lives of two people over the entire-" Shiro held Keith back on his shoulder.
"No Keith. That's not how a team works. People have to want to be a part of it, they can't be forced." He turned to Pidge. "If you want to leave, then we won't stop you. But please, think about what you're doing."
Pidge looked down, but said without hesitation. "I'm sorry. But you're going to have to find another paladin to handle this thing." He shoved the bayard forward. Allura touched it delicately and put it back into Pidge's arms.
"Look Pidge." Allura said softly. "Perhaps, we could make a stop to Gridale. Coran and I have talked about it recently, and we have decided that it would be better to eliminate all of Zarkon's bases. It took him long to build those and it would severely put him at a disadvantage. We can go to the one there and-"
"I can believe it, YOU TOO?" Keith shouted.
"Coran and I talked about it. It is far more reasonable than jumping headfirst into Zarkon, you all need more experience and that will do just-"
"You only want to go there because you think your father is there!" Keith pointed out. Allura squinted but said nothing. Hunk stepped in as the mediator.
"Whoa hey just calm down. Keith, let's just listen to Allura. Her plan makes sense, really." He waved his hands. Keith looked away.
"Then it's settled. After all, it wouldn't hurt to have two more on the team." Allura smiled at Pidge. He smiled back a forgiving one.
"Or three."

---

Lance and Coran both laughed. "Oh man, you're like one of those really cool uncles. I have one back at-"
"Guys where are you? I said come to the west wing!" Pidge spoke into the mic, but with much less despair than the last time. Lance had suggested they leave at first, but Coran refused. This time, Coran answered back.
"We're coming. Lance and I are chatting at the roof. We'll be there shortly." They both got up.
"Well! Looks like we're called again. Come on Lance." Coran stretched and began to walk down the stairs.
"Oh Coran?" He peered back curiously. "Thanks for talking with me." Lance said appreciatively. Coran gave a chipper thumbs up. The two were going to walk out, unaware of the invisible Haxus who snuck inside. Haxus clipped the bomb onto the electrical system which was in the center of the room. He turned it on and jumped out of the window. Under his breath muttering into the mic, "Bomb activated."
Lance was on his way out when he heard a very faint beeping. "Hm?" Lance turned to see a flat disk attached the podium they were leaning on before.
"Lance? What is it?" Coran stopped. The metal disc suddenly turned bright red, flashing. Lance gasped and immediately lunged toward Coran.
"Coran, look out!"

---

A booming shudder went through the entire temple, spraying bricks and rocks everywhere. The Arusians and paladins halted in their tracks. The villagers began to scream and run out of the swaying temple. The tiles feel from the roof, hitting some but not severely.
"What was that?!" Keith shielded himself from the debri.
"Was that a bomb? Where did it come from?!" Pidge scanned the area. With realization, he shouted an answer. "It came from the roof, god Lance and Coran are in there!" Hunk eeped.
"We gotta hurry, this building is going to collapse!" They all sprinted up the broken stairs and burst into the room. Coran could be seen on the ground, rubbing his forehead.
"Coran? What happened?" Allura went to help him up.
"I'm.. not sure." Coran dusted himself off, groaning. Then Allura gasped.
"Lance!" A crumpled figure on the ground could be faintly made out. Once the smoke cleared out, it showed Lance unconscious. They all made their way over to him and Shiro picked him up with his hands.
Lance groaned lowly.

"We have to get him to the infirmary!" Allura said. "Coran, Pidge, can you get the fuel in and get the ship up and running? Without energy the healing pods won't function!" Shiro carried Lance up.
"Okay, let's-" The chief Arusian stumbled into the room, blubbering.
"Voltron! Our village is under attack!" He panicked, pointing toward the open window. It showed some buildings on fire, people screaming, and of course, Galran drones.
"Okay this isn't good. Hunk, Allura, and Keith get to the village and fight the drones off and-"
"Guys we need to get out of this building, now!" Hunk shrieked when another clump of tiles fell at his feet.
"I know, it's just.." Lance shuffled, groaning again. "This is not good." Shiro got up with Lance and Keith rushed up to help.
"Will you not help us?" The chief worriedly looked between them. "Come on team, let's go!"
They all ran down the stairs as fast as they could. As soon as they were out, the temple's pillars creaked with a mighty heave and collapsed. In a rush of dust and flying rocks, the temple was now but a pile of rubbish.
"The temple..." The chief wailed.
"Everyone go to where they were ordered." Allura called out. Coran and Pidge ran in the direction of the ship along with Shiro holding Lance. Keith, Hunk, and Allura wasted no time jumping into the steep slope that led to the village. Sliding down, Allura and Hunk quickly went to put out the fires. Keith brandished his sword out, ready to fight. He looked around a corner where a group of drones were just... standing there. He slowly got close to it, but jumped when it just fell flat onto its face.
They're fake. Keith thought with horror. "Allura, Hunk, it was a trap! I'm going back up." Keith began to climb at the slope with nimble speed, the calls of Allura behind him get more and more distant.

Once back on the ledge, Keith sprinted to the ship, but was blocked by an entire line of Galran drones. Functioning, this time. Between the shoulder of the drones, he could see a scene of Shiro fighting against a much larger Galra. The Galra had a large prosthetic arm attached with bright purple beams to the joint. Shiro was expertly fighting with his hand. Keith glanced at Lance, who was lying on the ground nearby, and Coran with Pidge who were working frantically inside the ship to get its attack up.
Keith had trouble keeping every single drone off of him, but right when it seemed like he was surrounded, a multitude of bright yellow laser beams struck all of them simultaneously.
"Whoa..." Keith worded a thanks to Hunk, and turned back. It seemed like Shiro and the big Galra were at a stalemate. He smiled, but it quickly dropped once he saw another large Galra drag Lance by the back and shove him forward into the ground.
No... Keith thought as he began to sprint to the two remaining soldiers. This faltered Shiro, who then was slammed into the dirt by Sendak's large claws and then quickly bound them. They all halted once Haxus spoke.
"Surrender your ship or your friends won't make it." He made sure that everybody heard it, and held a claw dangerously close to their necks. Keith looked back at Allura, asking for help.
"... Okay." Allura gasped. "We need to help them before its too late. Pidge? Coran? Come out." Pidge protested.
"What?! No, just give us some more minutes and we'll have the defense up and running. Then we can kick their a-"
Haxus sensed the hesitation and gripped firmly onto his prisoner. He trailed one thin nail down Lance's ear, producing blood. Lance audibly winced, but didn't stir.
"Pidge." Keith almost growled into the mic. Coran stopped whacking at the keyboard and nodded. He came out with Pidge following.
Sendak nodded approvingly. "Good. Now, lay down your weapons." Sendak turned to Haxus. "The day is ours. Contact Zarkon and- AURGH!" A sudden shot of laser hit Sendak into the shoulder blade, fizzling with intense heat. It was Lance. He came out of his coma and had a smirk on his face, smoke flowing out of his bayard. It soon deactivated as Lance's slipped back into unconsciousness. He fell back as his bayard disappeared in a flash of light, groaning.

Haxus retracted his claws to destroy Lance, but Shiro threw himself against him. Haxus got knocked back, but Shiro was easily brought back down to the dirt with the heavy hand of Sendak.
Sendak threw Shiro against the ship, but soon got assaulted by Pidge, Keith, and Hunk at all sides. Allura called out to Coran who went spiraling back into the ship. Hunk was able to distract Sendak with his plentiful beams long enough for Keith to swipe his sword through the connection between the arm and Sendak's shoulder. He howled as the arm fell to the ground, lifeless.
"No!" Sendak threw Hunk and Pidge back together with his good arm, and proceeded to clash against Keith's sword, shaking from the full weight.
"Keith NOW!" Allura shouted. Sendak noticed a sudden blue glow coming from beneath him, a circle surrounding him and Keith. He turned to the ship behind, which was back up and running with bright cyan, several light beams connecting to the ground around him. He turned back to Keith but was too late. Keith shoved him back with both his feet and Sendak stumbled into the circle alone. The forcefield came up with a bright shine and soon solidified into clear glass. Sendak banged onto the thick transparent walls, but soon found it to be fruitless.
"Haxus, go get more troops. Tell Zarkon, go NOW!" Sendak was barely able to finish the last word before an entire casing of cold steam built around him. Haxus was going to draw his sword, but he bitterly obeyed and turned, escaping into the forest.
"He's getting away!" Keith turned, grunting.
"No! We must tend to our own first. Pidge and Hunk? Please help Shiro in, and Keith? Help me put Lance into our healing pods." Allura said sternly. Keith nodded and walked to him, clasping Lance's hands and bent down as the rest made their way in.
"Lance, you okay?"
"We did it." Lance smirked, but much softer now. "We are a good team." Gripping him firmly, Keith smiled as well before helping him back to the ship.
Allura sighed with slight relief. "That was Sendak, Zarkon's top commander. You've done well paladins." Everyone shouted back an affirmative.
"Psh, him? The top commander? We beat him in our first real Galra battle! Zarkon better prepare." Lance coughed, still smiling.
"You had to, didn't you." Keith rolled his eyes, chuckling. But it died down as Lance fell limp once again.
Before Keith could react, "Come! He'll become better within a day in the healing pod." Allura urged. They all went inside.

The pod encased itself with Lance floating inside. Allura sighed, wiping her sweat off. "Well done paladins. Shiro? How are you?"
"Good, good. Your first aid kits are doing its job well." Shiro stretched, rolling around his shoulder. Then he looked to Pidge, who was sitting nearby.
"Pidge, we fought off Zarkon's top commander together. I can't help but feel like you were... meant to be a part of this team?" Shiro prompted. Pidge replied,
"Dad used to tell me how close he was with his crew members. They were like family. Now, I understand what he was talking about. I'm staying with you guys." Pidge decided. "Well, I know we're going to Gridale tomorrow, but really guys. Even if we weren't I'd-" Allura stopped his stammering and smiled.
"Let's stop Zarkon for all of our families." Pidge nodded, sounding a cheer.
"Alright guys, get a good night's rest while you can now. We're leaving for Gridale tomorrow. Allura and Hunk doused the fires in the village right?" He looked to Hunk for confirmation. He gave the thumbs up. "After Lance is fully healed, we can try to interrogate Sendak for information on how to effectively stop Zarkon. The ship managed to encase him solid long enough to transport him to the memory pods."
Allura promised she would explain what those were later on.

"As of now, the plan is to rid of all his bases. It will take a while, but it is doable." Pidge laughed.
"Sometimes I wonder who the real leader is here."
"Well, maybe they can be both? Like leader mom and leader dad." Hunk suggested. The two sputtered.
"Go to bed." Shiro rubbed his eyes. Laughing, one by one they trailed off to their designated room. Leaving all but Keith. He stared at Lance curiously, hand on the cold glass pane. Before he could get himself too worried, he turned, and with a hiss the doors behind him closed.